Defence against parasites and pathogens can be essential, yet not all hosts respond similarly to parasitic challenge. Environmental conditions are thought to explain variation in host responses to parasites.
Lestes forcipatus damselflies emerging later in the season have shown higher resistance to the mite, Arrenurus planus, than hosts emerging earlier. This study was undertaken to determine whether variation in environmental temperatures characteristic of early vs. late emergence times, degree or costs of mite parasitism, and/or size of newly emerged adults could explain seasonal variation in defence and resistance to ectoparasitic mites.
In this study damselflies from early vs. late emergence groups differed in size at emergence and mite intensity. In general, early hosts were larger and had more mites than later hosts. However only experimental temperatures experienced by damselflies at emergence influenced defence and resistance against mites and not host size or degree of parasitism.
More specifically, hosts from early and late emergence groups did not differ in defence and resistance when held at the same temperatures in incubators. Housing at a high temperature, indicative of later in the season, was associated with higher defence and resistance for damselflies from both early and late emergence groups.
These results indicate that daily temperatures in relation to emergence timing can account for seasonal increases in resistance for this temperate insect. Seasonal increases in resistance may be expected for other temperate insect–parasite associations and should have important implications for the phenology of parasites and for seasonal variation in parasite‐mediated selection.
Damselflies were collected from the pond