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Institut Sophia Agrobiotech

UMR INRA - Univ. Nice Sophia Antipolis - Cnrs

Basic and Applied Ecology

27 April 2018

Basic and Applied Ecology
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.
The influence of aphid-produced honeydew on parasitoid fitness and nutritional state: a comparative study


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.


  • Hymenoptera; 
  • Aphididae; 
  • Nutritional ecology; 
  • Biological control; 
  • carbohydrates; 
  • Lysiphlebus testaceipes

Tena, A., Senft, M., Desneux, N., Dregni, J., and Heimpel, G.E. The influence of aphid-produced honeydew on parasitoid fitness and nutritional state: a comparative study. Basic and Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1016/j.baae.2018.04.003

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