Hosts often differ in their degree of parasitism and their expression of resistance. Yet very little is known about how the availability (and allocation) of resources to parasites at pre-infective stages influences their success in initiating parasitism, or in inducing and succumbing to resistance from hosts. We studied a damselfly–mite association to address how experimental variation in the age of first contact with hosts (timing) influenced subsequent parasite fitness. We demonstrate that timing influenced the ability of larval mites to make the transition to parasitism, but was not associated with measures of physiological resistance by hosts. Timing presumably relates to the availability of resources remaining for individuals to exploit their hosts. More research is needed on the importance of such factors, from variation in host resistance and parasite success and, ultimately, to the numbers and distributions of parasites on hosts.
Damselflies were collected, fed and clutches of eggs collected