Chromatic and achromatic plant cues are expected to be particularly important for parasitoids of endophytic pupal hosts, because these stages do not feed and therefore avoid volatile emission caused by plant tissue damage. Endophytic feeding can cause discoloration or desiccation, leading to changes in color and/or brightness of infested plant parts that may be visually detected by parasitoids. The role of color cues in the host-finding behavior of parasitoids is poorly understood, and the visual system of most parasitoid species has not yet been investigated. We studied color discrimination ability and innate color preferences in the pupal parasitoid Pimpla turionellae (L.) (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) during location of concealed hosts. Responses to combinations of yellow and blue bands of different reflectance intensities were investigated on cylindrical models of plant stems. The parasitoid’s reaction to these chromatic cues was evaluated by scoring the number of ovipositor insertions into the colored bands. Female parasitoids discriminated blue from yellow irrespective of total reflectance and inserted their ovipositors significantly more often into the blue area. True color vision is demonstrated for the examined species, and responses to chromatic cues are discussed in relation to their importance for host location in parasitoids. Results of this study and of our previous work suggest that P. turionellae uses contrasts (chromatic or achromatic) rather than specific color characteristics in visual host location.
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