Tachinid Fly (Diptera: Tachinidae) Parasitoids of Danaus plexippus (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)

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Extensive rearing of monarch larvae (Danaus plexippus L.) through the citizen science Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) revealed that monarchs’ primary parasitoids are flies in the family Tachinidae and that these parasitoids result in appreciable larval mortality. We document the tachinid community that attacks monarchs in the United States, evaluate their relative frequency, and examine variation in their specificity, oviposition strategy, and use of host stages. Based on results of rearing >20,000 monarchs by MLMP volunteers, overall parasitism by tachinids across life stages was 9.8% (17% for monarchs collected as fifth instars). We identified the flies that emerged from 466 monarch hosts, and found seven Tachinidae species. In decreasing order of frequency, these included Lespesia archippivora (Riley), Hyphantrophaga virilis (Aldrich & Webber), Compsilura concinnata (Meigen), Leschenaultia n. sp., Madremyia saundersii (Williston), Lespesia sp., and Nilea erecta (Coquillett). Lespesia sp., Leschenaultia n. sp., and N. erecta had not been previously reported as monarch parasitoids, and Leschenaultia n. sp. is apparently undescribed. We include new state records (Texas and Iowa) for C. concinnata. Lespesia archippivora and C. concinnata were overrepresented as parasitoids of later instars and were absent from monarchs collected as eggs, but H. virilis and Leschenaultia sp., which lay their eggs on foliage, were reared from caterpillars collected as eggs. To our knowledge, we include the first report of multiparasitism of monarchs, in which more than one parasitoid species emerged from a host. The biology of the tachinid parasitoids we identified and their relationship with monarchs is examined.


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