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Exploring the Lotka-Volterra Competition Model with Two Species of Parasitoid Wasps

In this Experiment, students design an experiment to examine intraspecific and interspecific competition using two species of parasitoid wasps (Nasonia vitripennis and Melittobia digitata). Students examine the effect of both types of competition on reproductive output in the wasps. One or two females are placed on a single host: alone, or a competitor of the same species (intraspecific), with a competitior of the other species (interspecific), or with competitors of both species (intraspecific and interspecific). Students gather data on the number of offspring produced by females under each of the treatments. The resulting data are used to estimate the parameters of the Lotka-Volterra competition model. The predictions of the model are then compared to the outcome of interspecific competition treatments. Information is included on how to use the appropriate statistical analyses to compare the relative importance of interspecific and intraspecific competition on reproduction. Several extensions of this experiment (other questions that can be investigated using the same materials) are also described.
Associated files
Resource Group TIEE
Resource Group Link
Primary or BEN resource type
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords TIEE, pedagogy, student active, inquiry based, competition, reproduction, reproductive success, parasitoid, parasite, parasitism, host, limiting resou
Key taxa Nasonia vitripennis, Melittobia digitata, wasp, Hymenoptera
Intended End User Role
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Category
Pedagogical Use Description This lab can be used to teach students about interspecific and intraspecific competition, the Lotka-Volterra model of competition, and parasitoid-host relationships through direct observation of two parasitoid wasp species (Nasonia vitripennis and Melittobia digitata). Students design experimental treatments to carry out using parasitoid cultures. Students count and compare the offspring produced in each experimental treatment, analyze their data, and write papers based on the data pooled from the entire class. Students use their data to estimate the parameters of the Lotka-Volterra model.
Aggregation Level
Full Name of Primary Author Christopher Beck
Primary Author Controlled Name
Primary Author Affiliation Emory University, Department of Biology

Radford University, Department of Biology

Morehouse College, Department of Biology

University of Georgia,
Department of Entomology
Primary Author email,,,
Added By Id
  • riemjg
Rights Copyright 2004 by Christopher W. Beck, Judy A. Guinan, Lawrence S. Blumer, Robert W. Matthews, and the Ecological Society of America.
Review type
Drought and Water Ecosystem Services Collection Off
Conservation Targets Under Global Change Collection Off
Big Data Collection Off
Editors Choice No
Resource Status
Date Of Record Submission 2007-12-26
I Agree to EcoEdDL's Copyright Policy & Terms of Use No
Date Of Record Release 2010-02-16 01:49:45
Last Modified By Id
  • educationintern
Date Last Modified 2018-07-23 14:01:59
Release Flag Published

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