Background: Climate warming presents physiological challenges to insects, manifesting as loss of key life-history fitness traits and survival. For interacting host–parasitoid species, physiological responses to heat stress may vary, thereby potentially uncoupling trophic ecological relationships. Here, we assessed heat tolerance traits and sensitivity to prevailing and future maximum temperatures for the cereal stemborer pests, Chilo partellus, Busseola fusca and Sesamia calamistis and their endo-parasitoids, Cotesia sesamiae and Cotesia flavipes. We further used the machine learning algorithm, Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt), to model current and potential distribution of these species. Results: The mean critical thermal maxima (CTmax) ranged from 39.5 ± 0.9°C to 44.6 ± 0.6°C and from 46.8 ± 0.7°C to 48.5 ± 0.9°C for parasitoids and stemborers, with C. sesamiae and Ch. partellus exhibiting the lowest and highest CTmax respectively. From the current climate to the 2050s scenario, parasitoids recorded a significant reduction in warming tolerance compared with their hosts. Habitat suitability for all stemborer–parasitoid species was spatially heterogeneous under current and future climatic scenarios. Cotesia sesamiae C. flavipes and B. fusca exhibited significant habitat loss, whereas Ch. partellus and S. calamistis showed a significant habitat gain under future 2050s predictions. Model metrics based on mean area under the curve ranged from 0.72 to 0.84 for all species, indicating a good predictive performance of the models. Conclusion: These results suggest C. sesamiae and C. flavipes may face survival constraints or extirpation compared with their pest hosts when environmental temperature reaches their upper thermal limits earlier, likely reducing pest regulation through density-mediated effects. The results demonstrate potential destabilization of stemborer–parasitoid trophic systems potentially compromising biocontrol efficacy under climate warming.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Insect Science