Posts Tagged ‘wasp’

Sphex pensylvanicus, found throughout the U.S. except for the northwest, is an important pollinator of plants including the milkweeds. Click to magnify.

Like other sphecid wasps, the female paralyzes living insects and carries them to her underground nest. She lays her eggs on the paralyzed prey, which survive for the several weeks required for larval development.

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Female Dolichomitus irritator showing the elongate ovipositor used to insert her eggs into the larvae of wood-boring beetles. Click to magnify.

Ichneumonidae is the largest family of the order Hymenoptera – the bees, ants and wasps. Even expert arthropod taxonomists often have difficulty classifying individuals in this group. Ichneumonids are characterized by long antennae. Females typically have an elongate ovipositor. The majority are parasitic on the caterpillars of moths and butterflies.

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Solitary wasp on milkweed (Asclepias sp.). Click image to enlarge.

Solitary wasps are common throughout the U.S. These wasps were one of the primary pollinators prior to the introduction of the European honeybee. They are particularly abundant around milkweed plant in east central IL right now.

Females provision their nest with living prey that have been paralyzed by the wasp’s venom.

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Chalcid wasp showing characteristic femoral development. Click image to magnify.


The chalcids continue to emerge from the ootheca shown in the previous entry. The picture above was taken on the plastic cap of the vial that contains the branch and ootheca.

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Chalcid wasp on branch with ootheca. Click image to magnify.


Earlier this week one of my students brought in a mantid ootheca. Several days later another student observed four tiny wasps on the ootheca. I photographed several of them yesterday. The parasitic wasps appear to belong to the family Chalcidae based on the antennae and the significantly widened rear femora.


Mantid ootheca clearly showing parasitic wasp emergence holes.


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Sphingid moth caterpillar covered with braconid wasp cocoons. Click image to magnify.

One of my students found two of these caterpillars dining on their neighbor’s tomato plants.

The female braconid wasp lays its eggs within the caterpillar.

The wasp larvae feed on the caterpillar’s body until they chew their way to the surface and spin the white cocoons.

The majority of the wasps already emerged, though a few emerged while we had the caterpillar. More about the wasps later…

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Female braconid wasp (Meteorus sp.)

These minute wasps, parasites of caterpillars, play an essential role in keeping down populations of a number of different economically significant, injurious species. The elongate ovipositor at the end of the abdomen is used to pierce the thin exoskeleton of the caterpillar. Parasitized caterpillars continue to feed while the growing wasp larvae consume the caterpillar’s tissues. Often large numbers of wasps will emerge from a single caterpillar.

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Perilampid(?) feeding on peony secretions

The wasp shown above is about the size of a pepper grain. Like everything else I’ve photographed this week, this individual took minimal notice of me while feeding. I’m always amazed by how much detail, initially undiscernable, you can often get from a good image. Please feel free to confirm or correct the classification if you are experienced with small wasp taxonomy.

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Ichneumonid Wasp at Kickapoo State Park, Oakwood, IL

Had a break from the rain this morning, so I drove to Kickapoo State Park to get some images of the wide array of species found in the sandy area beween the creek and the woods. Lots of tiger beetles, toad bugs, small flies from many families…

The ichneumonid pictured above is the first I’ve seen this season. Ichneumonidae is the largest family in the order Hymenoptera, with the majority of species being parasites of butterflies, moths and sawfly larvae during their larval stage.

Reference: Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Eaton and Kaufman, 2007.

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