Hidden Host Mortality from an Introduced Parasitoid: Conventional and Molecular Evaluation of Non-Target Risk

James R. Hepler, Kacie Athey, David Enicks, Paul K. Abram, Tara D. Gariepy, Elijah J. Talamas, Elizabeth Beers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hidden trophic interactions are important in understanding food web ecology and evaluating the ecological risks and benefits associated with the introduction of exotic natural enemies in classical biological control programs. Although non-target risk is typically evaluated based on evidence of successful parasitism, parasitoid-induced host mortality not resulting in visible evidence of parasitism (i.e., nonreproductive effects) is often overlooked. The adventive establishment of Trissolcus japonicus, an exotic parasitoid of the introduced stink bug Halyomorpha halys, provides an opportunity to investigate the total impact of this parasitoid on target and non-target hosts in the field. We developed a new methodology to measure nonreproductive effects in this system, involving a species-specific diagnostic PCR assay for T. japonicus. We applied this methodology to field-deployed eggs of four pentatomid species, coupled with traditional rearing techniques. Nonreproductive effects were responsible for the mortality of an additional 5.6% of H. halys eggs due to T. japonicus, and were even more substantial in some of the non-target species (5.4–43.2%). The observed hidden mortality of native non-target species from an introduced parasitoid could change predictions about direct and indirect ecological interactions and the efficacy of biological control of the target pest.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number822
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 23 2020


  • Halyomorpha halys
  • indirect effects
  • nonreproductive effects
  • molecular forensics
  • parasitoid
  • hidden mortality
  • non-target
  • Trissolcus japonicus
  • Indirect effects
  • Nonreproductive effects
  • Hidden mortality
  • Parasitoid
  • Non-target
  • Molecular forensics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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