Ronald M. Weseloh
Parasitoids are holometabolous insects that are free living as adults; their larvae are parasites within the bodies of other insects, which they invariably kill as they develop. Most parasitoids are small-to-large wasplike insects in the hymenopteran superfamilies Ichneumonoidea, Chacidoidea, Serphoidea, and Cynipoidea, or are flies in the dipteran family Tachinidae. Adult females, which are well suited for this task, almost always carry out host seeking in parasitoids. Most have wings and are active fliers, making it possible for them to explore large areas, relative to their body size. Most also have well-developed legs that facilitate the exploration of complicated surfaces. Typically, they possess tactile and chemosensory receptors on the antennae, feet, mouthparts, or ovipositor, and they have good visual acuity. Their ability to find specific host species may be important because many larval parasitoids exist inside other insects that often are capable of mounting immune responses unless the parasitoid is well adapted. Since, in addition, many parasitoids are small, it is easy for them to occupy restricted niches. Thus, the behaviors involved in host seeking in parasitoids are diverse and well developed. In fact, host seeking can be conveniently broken down into the overlapping, hierarchical categories of host habitat finding, host finding, and host acceptance.
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