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Plant quality vs. risk of parasitism: within-plant distribution and performance of the corn leaf aphid, Rhopalosiphum maidis

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1 Colonies of the aphid Rhopalosiphum maidis on Johnsongrass, Sorghum halepense, usually occur inside the whorl. The present work assessed the role of two biotic factors, plant quality and parasitism by Lysiphlebus testaceipes, in determining within-plant distribution and performance of R. maidis. The mean relative growth rate of aphids inside the whorl and on a mature leaf was compared, and the concentration of hydroxamic acids in those tissues determined as an indicator of plant quality. Parasitism effectiveness and parasitoid behaviour were evaluated using three treatments: aphid colonies placed (1) wholly inside the whorl, (2) on the inner and outer surfaces of the whorl, and (3) on a mature leaf.

2 The mean relative growth rate of aphids was lower on the whorl than on the mature leaf, and hydroxamic acid concentration in the whorl was higher than in the mature leaf.

3 The number of parasitized dead aphids (mummies) inside the whorl was considerably lower than in the other two treatments. Mummies were present in 80% of the replicates in the whorl, whereas mummies were present in all replicates of the other treatments.

4 Host location time of the parasitoid was increased on the mature leaf compared with the other treatments. No significant differences in the residence time of the parasitoid in the aphid colony occurred between treatments.

5 Host location time showed a negative correlation, and residence time of the parasitoid a positive correlation with the number of aphids on the outer surface of the whorl.
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Keywords: Aphids; Lysiphlebus testaceipes; Rhopalosiphum maidis; Sorghum halepense; hydroxamic acids; parasitoids; plant quality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile

Publication date: 2001-02-01

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