Parasitoid increases survival of its pupae by inducing hosts to fight predators

PLoS One. 2008 Jun 4;3(6):e2276. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002276.


Many true parasites and parasitoids modify the behaviour of their host, and these changes are thought to be to the benefit of the parasites. However, field tests of this hypothesis are scarce, and it is often unclear whether the host or the parasite profits from the behavioural changes, or even if parasitism is a cause or consequence of the behaviour. We show that braconid parasitoids (Glyptapanteles sp.) induce their caterpillar host (Thyrinteina leucocerae) to behave as a bodyguard of the parasitoid pupae. After parasitoid larvae exit from the host to pupate, the host stops feeding, remains close to the pupae, knocks off predators with violent head-swings, and dies before reaching adulthood. Unparasitized caterpillars do not show these behaviours. In the field, the presence of bodyguard hosts resulted in a two-fold reduction in mortality of parasitoid pupae. Hence, the behaviour appears to be parasitoid-induced and confers benefits exclusively to the parasitoid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Flight, Animal*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions*
  • Insecta / growth & development
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Male
  • Moths / physiology*
  • Predatory Behavior*