In this study, we investigated the tritrophic interactions among a persistently transmitted plant virus, Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), its insect vector, the sweetpotato whitefly Bemisia tabaci, and a parasitoid, Encarsia formosa Gahan, one of the most extensively used biological control agents. As an emerging invasive pest worldwide, the two most damaging whiteflies are B. tabaci B and Q cryptic species. On healthy tomato plants, parasitoid-induced mortality was significantly higher in B. tabaci B than in Q. In contrast, similar mortality levels of B and Q were observed on TYLCV-infected plants. A higher rate of parasitism was consistently observed in B, independent of the TYLCV infection. Similarly, the life history traits of E. formosa were influenced by both TYLCV and the two cryptic species of B. tabaci. Specifically, E. formosa parasitizing B had a greater adult longevity and shorter developmental time on healthy plants, whereas the parasitoids developing from Q has a greater adult longevity on TYLCV-infected plants. The emergence rate of E. formosa was unaffected by either B. tabaci cryptic species or the virus. These results suggest that the vector-borne pathogen can manipulate the host suitability of a parasitoid and hence the parasitoid-host interactions.

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Published in Scientific Reports, v. 4, 5926.

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