The development of parasitoid wasps is dependent on the finite resources contained in a single item of resource (=host) that is frequently not much larger than the adult parasitoid. When the costs of egg production are high, and host distribution is highly aggregated, parasitoid females may spend prolonged periods guarding their eggs and host resources as an adaptive strategy to optimize their inclusive fitness. Here, we examine aggressive interactions between the females of the secondary hyperparasitoid Trichomalopsis apanteloctena (Crawford) (Hymenoptera: Chelonidae), for control of cocoon clusters of their primary parasitoid host Cotesia kariyai (Watanabe) (Hymenoptera: Braeonidae). Generally, larger female hyperparasitoids were more successful at defending cocoon clusters than smaller female hyperparasitoids. However, when first encountering host cocoons, larger females behaved more aggressively toward conspecific wasps than smaller females. After occupation of a host cocoon cluster, females of similar size rarely engaged in physical combat, but both females primarily exhibited threatening behavior toward each other. However, larger females usually displaced smaller females which had initially occupied cocoon clusters. Some small females chewed through the outer cocoon silk layer to avoid being displaced by larger females and these wasps were able to continue parasitizing cocoons of C. kariyai. Extended bouts of aggression tended to reduce the number of eggs laid by the guarding female because of disruption of oviposition behavior. The relationship between the size of host cocoons and body mass in T. apanteloctena was also examined. The size of hyperparasitoid progeny was strongly correlated with host size. However, the relationship between maternal size, the number of matured eggs in her ovarioles and body mass in her offspring was not significant.
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