Physical and ant-mediated refuges from parasitism: Implications for non-target effects in biological control

Kris A.G. Wyckhuys, Robert L. Koch, George E. Heimpel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


A promising natural enemy for release against the Asian soybean aphid, Aphis glycines Matsumura, in North America is the aphidiine braconid wasp Binodoxys communis (Gahan). The aphid Aphis monardae Oestlund, a native of North America's tall-grass prairies, is a non-target species that may be at risk from releases of B. communis. This paper describes ecological facets of A. monardae populations in their native habitat that could protect them from attack by this exotic biological control agent. In prairie habitats, A. monardae populations aggregate in flower heads of their host plant, Monarda fistulosa L. On this host plant, aphids are also commonly tended by four ant species, and ant-tended colonies are larger than un-attended colonies. Laboratory studies showed that parasitism rates of A. monardae by B. communis are significantly higher on vegetative M. fistulosa than on M. fistulosa flower heads. In addition, attendance of A. monardae by the ant Lasius neoniger Emery significantly decreased parasitism by B. communis. Ants attacked and killed host-seeking adult parasitoids, and preyed upon B. communis mummies. No evidence was found that B. communis reared from A. monardae are less susceptible to attack by ants than parasitoids reared from A. glycines. M. fistulosa flower heads and attendance by L. neoniger may act as refuges for A. monardae against B. communis. Our work describes spatial refuges as ecological filters that separate non-target organisms from exotic natural enemies. Implications for classical biological control of A. glycines are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-313
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Control
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2007


  • Ant-parasitoid interactions
  • Binodoxys communis
  • Classical biological control
  • Lasius neoniger
  • Non-target effects
  • Parasitism
  • Soybean aphid
  • Spatial refuges

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