Research objectives and content
Foraging strategies of parasitoids (parasitic wasps) show considerable variability between species. Part of this variability is considered to be related to the degree of specialization of parasitoids in terms of host species attacked. For parasitoids attacking a large variety of herbivore species (generalists), specific information on the identity of the herbivore is of less importance than for parasitoids that attack only one or a few herbivore species (specialists). The behavior of specialist parasitoids is hypothesized to be fixed to specific cues and therefore less flexible. For generalists such fixed, specialized behavior does not to seem functional and therefore they are thought to respond to general cues initially, and then learn to associate cues with host availability during successful host encouners. The aim of the project is to test this hypothesi by studying and comparing the host location and attack behavior of several aphid parasitoid species, that differ in their diet breadth. Studying the foraging strategies of generalists and specialists is essential to determine the adaptive value of interspecific differences in foraging strategies. Furthermore, it provides essential information for the application of parasitoids in biocontrol. To improve the scientific basis and reliability of biological control it is necessary to understand the behavioral ecology of the natural enemies used.
Training content (objective, benefit and expected impact)
At Rothamsted there is a long established working group with aphid parasitoids, an ideal group of insects to tackle fundamental (theoretical) questions within an applied system. Working with this research group would offer me an excellent training, especially with respect to chemical analysis and identification of semiochemicals. Furthermore, considering my present project, it would be a great opportunity to study parasitoid foraging behavior in an agriculturally important tritrophic system. Links with industry/ industrial relevance (22)
Current working place is industry (Bayer AG, Central research division, section semiochemicals) .