A variable-response model for parasitoid foraging behavior

L. E.M. Vet, W. J. Lewis, D. R. Papaj, J. C. van Lenteren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


An important factor inducing variability in foraging behavior in parasitic wasps is experience gained by the insect. Together with the insect's genetic constitution and physiological state, experience ultimately defines the behavioral repertoire under specified environmental circumstances. We present a conceptual variable-response model based on several major observations of a foraging parasitoid's responses to stimuli involved in the hostfinding process. These major observations are that (1) different stimuli evoke different responses or levels of response, (2) strong responses are less variable than weak ones, (3) learning can change response levels, (4) learning increases originally low responses more than originally high responses, and (5) hostderived stimuli serve as rewards in associative learning of other stimuli. The model specifies how the intrinsic variability of a response will depend on the magnitude of the response and predicts when and how learning will modify the insect's behavior. Additional hypotheses related to the model concern how experience with a stimulus modifies behavioral responses to other stimuli, how animals respond in multistimulus situations, which stimuli act to reinforce behavioral responses to other stimuli in the learning process, and finally, how generalist and specialist species differ in their behavioral plasticity. We postulate that insight into behavioral variability in the foraging behavior of natural enemies may be a help, if not a prerequisite, for the efficient application of parasitoids in pest management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-490
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1990


  • biological control
  • experience
  • foraging behavior
  • learning
  • model
  • parasitoids
  • variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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