Abstract from published manuscript:
The absence of sugar resources can be an important factor in limiting the success of parasitoids as biological control agents. Restoring vegetation complexity within agricultural landscapes has thus become a major focus of conservation biological control efforts, with a traditional emphasis on nectar resources. Aphid honeydew is also an important source of sugars that is infrequently considered. We carried out a laboratory experiment to examine the potential effects of honeydew from six different aphid species by crop species combinations on the longevity of Bracon cephi Gahan (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), the most important biological control of the wheat stem sawfly, Cephus cinctus Norton (Hymenoptera: Cephidae), a major pest of wheat in the northern Great Plains of North America. The benefits of honeydew for parasitoid longevity varied significantly among different aphid and crop species, illustrating the complexity of these interactions. However, honeydew produced by four aphid species commonly found in wheat, pea, and canola crops significantly increased the longevity (by two- to threefold) of the parasitoid. The study suggests that honeydew provisioning could be an important mechanism underlying the benefits of crop diversification to support biological control that merits further research.