University of California

Some factors influencing the efficiency of Apanteles medicaginis Muesebeck (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) as a parasite of the alfalfa caterpillar, Colias philodice eurytheme Boisduval


William W. Allen
Ray F. Smith

Authors Affiliations

William W. Allen was Lecturer in Entomology and Assistant Entomologist in the Experiment Station, Berkeley; Ray F. Smith was Associate Professor of Entomology and Associate Entomologist in the Experiment Station, Berkeley.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 28(1):1-42. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v28n01p001. November 1958.

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Investigations were conducted to determine the more important factors influencing the efficiency of Apanteles medicaginis as a parasite of Colias philodice eurytheme, Studies on the rate of Colias development at various temperatures indicate that this insect becomes of economic importance only during periods of high temperatures. At low temperatures, the development time exceeds the time that elapses between cuttings of alfalfa. Thus, populations seldom, if ever, develop to economic proportions.

It is in high-temperature areas that A. medicaginis becomes an important factor in the control of C. pb, eurytheme. Apantelcs requires a much shorter time for development than does Colias, and should be able to respond rapidly to changes in host density. Its ability to respond rapidly is limited, however, because alfalfa is cut every 30 to 35 days, thus making it difficult for the parasite to complete two generations in a field between cuttings. Consequently, Apanteles females emerging from a field must either seek out another Colias population in a parasitizable stage or wait for emergence and resulting progeny of Colias from the same field. This difference in emergence time, coupled with the difference in flight characteristics and host habitat selection, at times results in concentration of host and parasite in different fields. To effect control under these circumstances, a small number of Apanteles females must cope with very large numbers of Colias larvae.

The efficiency of A. medicaginis is therefore restricted by its limited longevity and associated low reproductive capacity. Superparasitism is normally very low, and is not a limiting factor, as indicated by dissection of numerous field-collected Colias. As with many other solitary Apanteles, this species has a 1 : 1 sex ratio on which environmental conditions normally encountered in the field have little influence. Hyperparasitism also seems of little importance, largely because of lack of opportunities for the hyperparasites to attack Apanteles.

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Allen W, Smith R. 1958. Some factors influencing the efficiency of Apanteles medicaginis Muesebeck (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) as a parasite of the alfalfa caterpillar, Colias philodice eurytheme Boisduval. Hilgardia 28(1):1-42. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v28n01p001
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