Hyperparasitism

Daniel J. Sullivan

Fordham University

Hyperparasitism is a highly evolved behavior in the Hymenoptera and in a few species of Diptera and Coleoptera, in which an adult hyperparasitoid (or secondary parasitoid) oviposits on or in a primary parasitoid host that has attacked another (usually herbivorous) insect species. The larval offspring of the hyperparasitoid cause the death of the primary parasitoid. Ecologists emphasize this interaction as a food-web "community." This article focuses on the hymenopteran microwasps in which hyperparasitism occurs.

There are a variety of behaviors by hyperparasitoids depending on the species of secondary and primary microwasp parasitoids which in turn are influenced by the species of phytophagous host, often an insect pest. In addition, there is an economic interest in hyperparasitism because if primary parasitoids are considered to be beneficial insects when used in biological control programs, it would seem that hyperparasitoids that attack primary parasitoids would be detrimental. However, hyperparasitoids may play a positive role by preventing extreme oscillations of the primary parasitoids that might reduce the numbers of the phytophagous host enough to cause the local elimination of both the insect pest and the beneficial primary parasitoid.

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