The influence of aphid-produced honeydew on parasitoid fitness and nutritional state: A comparative study

Alejandro Tena, Matthias Senft, Nicolas Desneux, Jonathan Dregni, George E Heimpel

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14 Scopus citations


Honeydew is a sugar-rich resource excreted by many hemipteran species and is a key food source for other insect species such as ants and parasitoid wasps. Here, we evaluated the nutritional value of 14 honeydews excreted by 13 aphid species for the generalist aphid parasitoid Lysiphlebus testaceipes to test a series of hypotheses concerning variation in the nutritional value of honeydew. There was a positive correlation between the body sugar content of honeydew-fed parasitoids and their longevity. This information is valuable for biological control researchers because it demonstrates that the nutritional state of honeydew-fed parasitoids in the wild can indicate their fitness, independently of the honeydew source they have fed on. Although the carbohydrate content and longevity of L. testaceipes differed greatly among the different honeydews, we did not find a significant effect of aphid or host plant phylogeny on these traits. This result suggests that honeydew is evolutionarily labile and may be particularly subject to ecological selection pressures. This becomes apparent when considering host aphid suitability: Schizaphis graminum, one of the most suitable and commonly used hosts of L. testaceipes, produced honeydew of the poorest quality for the parasitoid whereas Uroleucon sonchi, one of the few aphids tested that cannot be parasitized by L. testaceipes, excreted the honeydew with the highest nutritional value. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that hemipterans are subject to selection pressure to minimize honeydew quality for the parasitoids that attack them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-68
Number of pages14
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Leroy Bondhus, Lanfen Qiu, and Tony Charvoz for laboratory assistance. M. Senft, N. Desneux and A. Tena were supported by the FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IRSES program (project APHIWEB, grant no. 611810).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Gesellschaft für Ökologie


  • Aphididae
  • Biological control
  • Carbohydrates
  • Hymenoptera
  • Lysiphlebus testaceipes
  • Nutritional ecology


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