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The influence of light environment on host colour preference in a parasitoid wasp

Précillia Cochard, Tigran Galstian, Conrad Cloutier
Ecological entomology 2019 v.44 no.1 pp. 105-117
Acyrthosiphon pisum, Aphidius ervi, clones, color, females, greenhouses, larval development, microsymbionts, morphs, oviposition, parasitic wasps, parasitism, red light, visual perception, wasps
1. Visual chromatic cues and contrast effects are widely used by insects in behaviours involving host/prey/mate‐finding and recognition. However, naturally changing light conditions may challenge the visual perception of cues for these organisms. 2. We used the host/parasitoid system Acyrthosiphon pisum/Aphidius ervi to determine if apparent visual preference of the wasp for green over pink host aphids was a visually based choice or a post‐attack mechanism based on host susceptibility depending on anti‐parasitoid symbiotic bacteria. 3. The study tested the ability of the wasp to recognise and attack pea aphid clones expressing variation based on colour and/or symbionts under a broad range of LED‐controlled light environments mimicking natural variations. 4. Results showed that the amount of reflected light of pink morphs was about half that of the green morphs in the cyan‐green components. Both host colours were recognised and attacked under all tested light conditions, even red light (660 nm). The previously reported preference of A. ervi for green pea aphids, was clear only for naive females given a choice between two aphid colours under all light environments, but quickly disappeared. 5. Wasps showed no tendency of avoiding oviposition in clones with defensive symbionts. 6. These findings suggest that variable rates of pea aphid parasitism by A. ervi in fields do not depend on host colour discrimination, but rather on susceptibility variation among aphid clones in allowing larval development after egg‐laying. Further studies should consider deeper investigation of the impact of red lights used in modified light environments in greenhouses and the proportion of host colour morph available.