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Within many agricultural systems, insect pests and their natural enemies are forced to persist as a metapopulation, continuously recolonizing patches following disturbance through harvesting or spraying with insecticides. Despite the need to understand factors influencing biocontrol success, few theoretical studies of host-parasitoid interactions have examined the potential impact of local disturbance within a metapopulation framework. Here, we add periodic local mortality to series of classical host-parasitoid models to examine its effect on host suppression and parasitoid persistence. Using a deterministic lattice model, we show that despite the wide range of complex dynamics generated at the patch level, the region wide pattern of disturbance is the key factor influencing host suppression. The level of host suppression achieved can be understood in terms of both the strength of density dependent parasitism, and the relative amounts of host and parasitoid mixing amongst patches of different ages. Local dispersal among patches is sufficient to ensure coexistence of the host and parasitoid, though persistence is not necessarily associated with the formation of self-organized spatial structures reported in previous studies. Finally, a stochastic version of the model is developed, in order to highlight how the effects of demographic stochasticity may influence biocontrol success in highly disturbed agricultural systems.

Original publication




Journal article


J Theor Biol

Publication Date





13 - 23


Animals, Ecosystem, Host-Parasite Interactions, Insecta, Models, Biological, Periodicity, Pest Control, Biological, Population Dynamics, Stochastic Processes