Honey and honey-based sugars partially affect reproductive trade-offs in parasitoids exhibiting different life-history and reproductive strategies

Harvey, Jeffrey A.; Essens, Tijl A.; Las, Rutger A.; Veen, Cindy van; Visser, B.; Ellers, J.; Heinen, R.; Gols, R.


Adult dietary regimes in insects may affect egg production, fecundity and ultimately fitness. This is especially relevant in parasitoid wasps where many species serve as important biological control agents of agricultural pests. Here, we tested the effect of honey and sugar diets on daily fecundity schedules, lifetime reproductive success and longevity in four species of parasitoid wasps when reared on their respective hosts. The parasitoid species were selected based on dichotomies in host usage strategies and reproductive traits. Gelis agilis and G. areator are idiobiont ecto-parasitoids that develop in non-growing hosts, feed on protein-rich host fluids to maximize reproduction as adults and produce small numbers of large eggs. Meteorus pulchricornis and Microplitis mediator are koinobiont endoparasitoids that develop inside the bodies of growing hosts, do not host-feed, and produce greater numbers of small eggs. Parasitoids were reared on diets of either pure honey (containing trace amounts of proteins), heated honey (with denatured proteins) and a honey-mimic containing sugars only. We hypothesized that the benefits of proteins in honey would enhance reproduction in the ectoparasitoids due to their high metabolic investment per egg, but not in the koinobionts. Pure honey diet resulted in higher lifetime fecundity in G. agilis compared with the honey-mimic, whereas in both koinobionts, reproductive success did not vary significantly with diet. Longevity was less affected by diet in all of the parasitoids, although there were variable trade-offs between host access and longevity in the four species. We argue that there are both trait-based and association-specific effects of supplementary nutrients in honey on reproductive investment and success in parasitoid wasps.