Parasitoid nutritional ecology in a community context: The importance of honeydew and implications for biological control

Alejandro Tena, Felix L. Wäckers, George E. Heimpel, Alberto Urbaneja, Apostolos Pekas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


One focus of conservation biological control studies has been to improve the nutritional state and fitness of parasitoids by adding nectar and artificial sugars to agroecosystems. This approach has largely overlooked the presence of honeydew, which is likely the primary carbohydrate source available to parasitoids in many agroecosystems. Over the last decade, it has been demonstrated that parasitoids often utilize this sugar source and there is evidence that honeydew can indirectly impact the population dynamics of herbivores through its nutritional value for parasitoids. The consumption of honeydew by parasitoids can shape direct and indirect interactions with other arthropods. The strength of these effects will depend on: first, parasitoid biology, second, the presence of other sugar sources (mainly nectar), third, the quality and quantity of the honeydew, and fourth, the presence and competitive strength of other honeydew consumers such as ants. The combination of these four factors is expected to result in distinct scenarios that should be analyzed for each agroecosystem. This analysis can reveal opportunities to increase the biocontrol services provided by parasitoids. Moreover, honeydew can be a resource-rich habitat for insect pathogens; or contain plant secondary chemicals sequestered by hemipterans or systemic insecticides toxic for the parasitoid. Their presence and effect on parasitoid fitness will need to be addressed in future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-104
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Opinion in Insect Science
StatePublished - Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partly funded by a postdoctoral fellowship MCINN (Juan de la Cierva program) to A. Tena. The research leading to these results has received funding from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation ( AGL2011-30538-C03 ) and Marie-Curie International Research Exchange Scheme No 611810 (Program: FP7-PEOPLE-2015-APHIWEB).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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