Costs and consequences of superparasitism in the polyembryonic parasitoid Copidosoma koehleri (Hymenoptera : Encyrtidae)

Tamar Keasar, Michal Segoli, Roi Barak, Shimon Steinberg, David Giron, Michael R. Strand, Amos Bouskila, Ally R. Harari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Polyembryonic wasps provide dramatic examples of intra-specific developmental conflict. In these parasitoids, each egg proliferates into a clonal lineage of genetically identical larvae. If more than one egg is laid in a host (superparasitism), individuals of different clones may compete for food resources.
2. In the polyembryonic encyrtid Copidosoma koehleri, one larva per clone can differentiate into a sterile soldier. It is shown that soldiers are always females, and that they attack intra-specific competitors.
3. Research hypotheses were that (a) clones that develop in superparasitised hosts suffer heavier mortality than clones that develop in singly parasitised hosts, and (b) female clones cause higher mortality to their competitors than male clones, hence larval survival is lower in superparasitised hosts that contain females than in male-only broods.
4. The potential frequency of superparasitism in C. koehleri was manipulated by varying parasitoid–host ratios and exposure durations.
5. As parasitoid densities and exposure durations increased, the frequency of superparasitism rose, brood sizes increased, but the number of hosts that completed development was reduced. The number of offspring per parasitoid female decreased with increasing parasitoid–host ratios. Offspring size and longevity were inversely correlated with brood size. As superparasitism rates increased, fewer all-male broods were produced. Male–female broods were female-biased, suggesting selective killing of males by female soldiers. All-female broods were significantly smaller than all-male broods at high parasitoid densities only, possibly reflecting aggression among soldiers of competing clones.

6. The results support the working hypotheses, and suggest that female larvae outcompete males in superparasitised hosts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-283
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Copidosoma
  • intra-specific competition
  • polyembryony
  • sex ratio


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