The reproductive potential of biological control agents (BCAs) is crucial for efficient mass-rearing and field performance, and it all begins with mating. Fecundity can be strongly influenced by intrinsic conditions, such as female age and, often neglected, male age and mating status. However, little is known about the impact of parental status at mating on female reproductive outcomes in BCAs. Orius laevigatus (Fieber) (Hemiptera: Anthocoridae) is widely used to control thrips in protected crops. We evaluated how many consecutive females a male could successfully mate and the effect on a female's reproductive output. In addition, we studied the effects of male and female age on mating. In the multiple mating experiment, the males showed a high capacity to fertilize females successively, not reducing fecundity until the sixth mated female. In the delayed mating experiment, copulation duration and fecundity increased with male age but decreased with female age. In contrast, fertility followed an opposite pattern, increasing with female age but decreasing with male age. However, fecundity gains outweighed fertility declines in both sexes. Therefore, reproductive capacity is increased when mating newly emerged females with males a few days old. The implications of our results for mass rearing and field performance are discussed.
Keywords: Orius laevigatus; age; biological control agent; copulation; delayed mating; fecundity; multiple mating.