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Sugar feeding by the aphid parasitoid Binodoxys communis: How does honeydew compare to other sugar sources?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


  • Kris A. G. Wyckhuys
  • Jessica E. Strange-George
  • Chris A. Kulhanek
  • Felix L. Wäckers
  • George E. Heimpel
Journal publication date02/2008
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Number of pages11
Original languageEnglish


Parasitoids commonly forage in agricultural settings where the predominant sugar source is homopteran honeydew. The aphidiine braconid, Binodoxys communis, is an Asian parasitoid currently being released against the soybean aphid, Aphis glycines, in North American soybean fields. We conducted a number of laboratory experiments evaluating the quality of A. glycines honeydew as a sugar source for this parasitoid. Wasps readily fed on droplets of A. glycines honeydew, honey and 50% sucrose solution, but the length of feeding bouts on honey was significantly longer than on the other foods. Parasitoids lived significantly longer when fed honey or sucrose than honeydew, while starved wasps had the shortest lifespan. At 21±1 °C and 25±5% R.H., male B. communis that were fed honey lived for a maximum of 14 days, while females lived up to 20 days. Honeydew-fed wasps of both sexes lived approximately 3 days on average, which was 2–3 times longer than when they were only allowed access to water. Anthrone tests of whole insects showed that total sugar and glycogen levels of honey or sucrose-fed individuals were consistently higher than those fed honeydew or water. The glycogen levels of honeydew-fed wasps increased significantly after one day of feeding. HPLC analyses revealed that B. communis readily assimilates A. glycines honeydew oligosaccharides such as erlose, while others (e.g., raffinose) did not degenerate. Raffinose was present in much higher amounts in honeydew-fed wasps than in wasps fed other diets, so this sugar could be used as a ‘signature’ sugar for this species. Honeydew-fed wasps also had significantly lower fructose/(fructose+glucose) ratios than those from other diet treatments. Although A. glycines honeydew might be the main carbohydrate source within a soybean field, other sugar sources such as floral nectar appear to be more optimal foods for B. communis from a physiological standpoint. We discuss the results from the perspective of classical biological control of the soybean aphid in North America.