We studied the developmental performance of the large morph of Pseudacteon nocens Borgmeier (Diptera: Phoridae), a prospective biological control agent of imported fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). We measured selected life history traits of this parasitoid as a function of 1) host species (Solenopsis invicta Buren versus Solenopsis richteri Forel), 2) temperature (22 versus 28°C), 3) source population of the fly (Corrientes and Santiago del Estero, Argentina), and 4) varied size distributions of offered host ants. Developmental periods were influenced by host species, although the populations responded in opposing manners. Developmental times, however, were most strongly influenced by temperature with total developmental periods lengthened by 17–32% at 22°C. Pupal mortality was also significantly lower at this temperature. Although numbers of progeny per female were significantly higher for the Corrientes population, we found no significant differences in progeny per female according to host species. Interestingly, we found that females were larger than males, and flies from Corrientes were larger than those from Santiago del Estero, even after statistical adjustments for host size. The modal frequency of host size elected in all treatment combinations tested was identical (0.6 mm), a size that represented the apparent threshold for producing female progeny. These laboratory and additional field observations demonstrate considerable interpopulational variation in P. nocens and lend further support to the applied approach focusing at the population, as opposed to the species level, with respect to both source and target areas for classical biological control introductions of Pseudacteon flies.
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Vol. 99 • No. 2