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Interspecific competition between Diadegma semiclausum Hellen and Diadegma mollipla (Holmgren), parasitoids of the diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella (L), feeding on a new host plant.


Interspecific competition between an introduced parasitoid species aimed at controlling a herbivorous pest species and a native parasitoid parasitising the same host may influence the success of classical biological control programmes. In Kenya, interspecific competition between an introduced and a local parasitoid on two diamondback moth populations (DBM, Plutella xylostella) was investigated on two different host plants. We tested simultaneous and delayed competition of the local parasitoid Diadegma mollipla Holmgren and its exotic congenus D. semiclausum Hellen on a newly aquired DBM host plant (snowpea) in the laboratory. Under simultaneous competition, D. mollipla produced more progeny than D. semiclausum on snowpea. A head start of D. Mollipla, of four and eight hours before its congenus was introduced, resulted in a similar number of progeny of both species. In delayed competition (time intervals of 24 h, 48 h and 72 h), progeny production was similar for both parasitoids when the time interval was 24 h, irrespective of which species parasitized first. More progeny was produced by the species which attacked first, when the time interval was greater than 24 h, although it was only significant at 72 h. Competitive abilites of both parasitoids on the new host plant differed largely between laboratory and semi-field conditions. The influence of two host plants (snowpea and cabbage) on competition was studied in the greenhouse with different host and parasitoid densities. Parasitism levels of D. semiclausum were significantly higher than those of D. mollipla, regardless of host plant, host and parasitoid densities, but progeny production of D. mollipla on snowpea was still slightly higher than on cabbage. As compared to the confinement of parasitoids and larvae to small containers, D. mollipla parasitized very few larvae in the cages. Competitive ability of the two parasitoid species tested was influenced both by the density of the searching females and by parameters related to either the host plant and/or the herbivorous hosts.