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Data from: Rapid evolution of symbiont-mediated resistance compromises biological control of aphids by parasitoids

Cite this dataset

Kaech, Heidi et al. (2017). Data from: Rapid evolution of symbiont-mediated resistance compromises biological control of aphids by parasitoids [Dataset]. Dryad.


There is growing interest in biological control as a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to control pest insects. Aphids are among the most detrimental agricultural pests worldwide, and parasitoid wasps are frequently employed for their control. The use of asexual parasitoids may improve the effectiveness of biological control because only females kill hosts and because asexual populations have a higher growth rate than sexuals. However, asexuals may have a reduced capacity to track evolutionary change in their host populations. We used a factorial experiment to compare the ability of sexual and asexual populations of the parasitoid Lysiphlebus fabarum to control caged populations of black bean aphids (Aphis fabae) of high and low clonal diversity. The aphids came from a natural population, and one third of the aphid clones harbored Hamiltonella defensa, a heritable bacterial endosymbiont that increases resistance to parasitoids. We followed aphid and parasitoid population dynamics for three months but found no evidence that the reproductive mode of parasitoids affected their effectiveness as biocontrol agents, independent of host clonal diversity. Parasitoids failed to control aphids in most cases, because their introduction resulted in strong selection for clones protected by H. defensa. The increasingly resistant aphid populations escaped control by parasitoids and we even observed parasitoid extinctions in many cages. The rapid evolution of symbiont-conferred resistance in turn imposed selection on parasitoids. In cages where asexual parasitoids persisted until the end of the experiment, they became dominated by a single genotype able to overcome the protection provided by H. defensa. Thus there was evidence for parasitoid counteradaptation, but it was generally too slow for parasitoids to regain control over aphid populations. It appears that when pest aphids possess defensive symbionts, the presence of parasitoid genotypes able to overcome symbiont-conferred resistance is more important for biocontrol success than their reproductive mode.

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