Microplitis croceipes (Hymenoptera: Braconidae): A Life History Study and in vitro Rearing
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Microplitis croceipes (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) is an endoparasitoid and potential biological control agent of the tobacco budworm, Heliothis virescens (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), an agricultural pest. The first objective of the following research was to amend current larval life history descriptions of M. croceipes. Larval head capsule width measurements were used to distinguish instar, and exuvium in abdominal cavities of post-egression hosts were indicative of a molt during parasitoid egression. Data revealed the larvae of M. croceipes pass through five instars, rather than three, as is indicated in the literature. The second objective was to investigate the suitability of potential artificial diets to be used in in vitro rearing of M. croceipes larvae. Three concentrations each of glucose, trehalose, and protein, as well as a combination diet (derived from initial diet trials) were tested. Growth, molting, and death were noted for each diet, and data indicated that diet had a significant effect for each performance measure (p = 0.0000, p < 0.0001, p < 0.0001, respectively). Data also indicated that trehalose and protein were more vital to larval parasitoid development (growth and molting) than was glucose, but no larvae were reared passed the second instar on an artificial diet. The final goals of the research were to evaluate the plausibility of rearing M. croceipes larvae to adulthood in vitro and to investigate post-egression host defensive behavior. Larvae were dissected from their hosts just prior to egression and placed in a cell culture plate in previously collected host hemolymph. Larvae were able to initiate pre-egression behavior in an in vitro environment, and a small percentage (6.67%) exhibited ecdysial splitting of the cuticle, however, no larvae were able to make the final molt in vitro. Post-egression hosts exhibited defensive behavior that may suggest they play a role in protecting pupating parasitoids. When the parasitoid exuvium was pulled from the egression wound in the host, hemolymph loss occurred and duration of the defensive behavior significantly decreased (p < 0.0001), indicating the exuvium acted to plug the egression wound, which prevented the host from bleeding to death and made it possible for the host to exhibit defensive behavior.
McLoud, Laura Ann (2011). Microplitis croceipes (Hymenoptera: Braconidae): A Life History Study and in vitro Rearing. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from