Maladaptive behaviors reflecting a “bad” choice of habitat or resource have been widely documented; however, their persistence is often difficult to interpret. The potter wasp Delta dimidiatipenne constructs mud cells, in each of which it lays a single egg and places several caterpillars to feed its offspring. Preliminary observations indicated that a portion of these caterpillars were already parasitized and contained the offspring of the gregarious parasitoid Copidosoma primulum. As a result, the offspring of the potter wasp often failed to develop. To characterize the distribution, frequency and consequences of this intriguing phenomenon, we surveyed potter wasp nests throughout the Negev Desert. Evidence for parasitized caterpillars (mummies) was found in ~85% of the sampled sites, in ~20% of previous years’ nest cells and in ~70–80% of the same year’s cells. The survival and pupal mass of the potter wasp offspring were negatively associated with the presence and number of parasitized caterpillars inside the cells. We concluded that the collection of parasitized caterpillars by D. dimidiantipenne is frequent and costly. The persistence of this behavior may result from limited discrimination ability against parasitized prey by female potter wasps, or by their limited ability to exhibit choosiness under field conditions.
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