Shipments of 50,000 commercially reared Aphytis melinus DeBach were obtained from each of the five insectaries that produce and sell this parasitoid to citrus growers in California for control of California red scale, Aonidiella aurantii (Maskell). Shipments were received from each insectary every 2 mo over a period of a year to assess variability in quality through time and between insectaries. As indices of quality, we assessed the percentage of live parasitoids (both sexes) 1, 3, 7, 14, and 28 d after receipt of the shipment, shipment sex ratio, and the size of female wasps. We found a fair amount of variation in the percentage of A. melinus that were alive on different sampling days. Despite the fact that all insectaries rear A. melinus in temperature controlled rooms and all of our studies were done at 22°C, wasp mortality occurred more quickly in the colder months of November, January through February, and March. Similar trends were observed with sex ratios; many of the insectaries had male-biased sex ratios in the colder months, especially January through February. Wasp size varied significantly for each of the insectaries throughout the year, with the summer months of July through August yielding significantly smaller females than other months. Collectively our results have important implications for biological control on citrus in California.
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Vol. 41 • No. 1