Why do predators attack parasitized prey? Insights from a probabilistic model and a literature survey

Michal Segoli, Yves Papegay, Tamir Rozenberg, Eric Wajnberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predators and parasitoids often encounter parasitized prey or hosts during foraging. While the outcomes of such encounters have been extensively studied for insect parasitoids, the consequences of a predator encountering parasitized prey have received less attention. One extreme example involves the potter wasp Delta dimidiatipenne that frequently provision their nest with parasitized caterpillars, despite the low suitability of this prey for consumption by their offspring. This raises two main questions: (1) why do female potter wasps continue collecting parasitized caterpillars? and (2) is this an exceptional example, or do predatory insects often suffer from fitness costs due to encounters with parasitized prey? We addressed the first question using a probabilistic mathematical model predicting the value of discrimination between parasitized and unparasitized prey for the potter wasp, and the second question by surveying the literature for examples in which the parasitism status of prey affected prey susceptibility, suitability, or prey choice by a predator. The model demonstrates that only under certain conditions is discrimination against parasitized prey beneficial in terms of the potter wasp's lifetime reproductive success. The literature survey suggests that the occurrence of encounters and consumption of parasitized prey is common, but the overall consequences of such interactions have rarely been quantified. We conclude that the profitability and ability of a predator to discriminate against parasitized prey under natural conditions may be limited and call for additional studies quantifying the outcome of such interactions.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number105002
JournalBehavioural Processes
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2024


  • Discrimination ability
  • Intraguild predation
  • Parasitoid
  • Potter wasp
  • Predator
  • Probabilistic model

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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