High Hemocyte Load Is Associated With Increased Resistance Against Parasitoids in Drosophila suzukii, A Relative of D. melanogaster. Balint Z. Kacsoh, Todd A. Schlenke. Department of Biology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA.

   Among the most common parasites of Drosophila in nature are parasitoid wasps, which lay their eggs in fly larvae and pupae. D. melanogaster larvae can mount a cellular immune response against wasp eggs, but female wasps inject venom along with their eggs to block this immune response. Genetic variation in flies for immune resistance against wasps and genetic variation in wasps for virulence against flies largely determines the outcome of any fly-wasp interaction. Interestingly, up to 90% of the variation in fly resistance against wasp parasitism has been linked to a very simple mechanism: flies with increased constitutive blood cell (hemocyte) production are more resistant. However, this relationship has not been tested for Drosophila hosts outside of the melanogaster subgroup, nor has it been tested across a diversity of parasitoid wasp species and strains. We compared hemocyte levels in two fly species from different subgroups, D. melanogaster and D. suzukii, and found that D. suzukii constitutively produces up to five times more hemocytes than D. melanogaster. Using a panel of 24 parasitoid wasp strains representing fifteen species, four families, and multiple virulence strategies, we found that D. suzukii was significantly more resistant to wasp parasitism than D. melanogaster. Thus, our data suggest that the relationship between hemocyte production and wasp resistance is general. However, at least one sympatric wasp species was a highly successful infector of D. suzukii, suggesting specialists can overcome the general resistance afforded to hosts by excessive hemocyte production. Given that D. suzukii is an emerging agricultural pest, identification of the few parasitoid wasps that successfully infect D. suzukii may have value for biocontrol.