Archive | July, 2012

We Have to go Deeper

25 Jul
Yellow fuzzy braconid wasp cocoons (egg-like) clustered on a stick.

A mass of yellow cocoons attached to the end of a twig.

Hi!  It’s been a few weeks, hasn’t it?  I have all these pictures and draft posts but no time to finish any of them because I am trying to get my analyses done for the ecology conference this August.  I am tragically productive.

Here are some cocoons I found up at the Oklahoma biostation back in spring.  Cocoons are awesome because they are basically insects you can rear without actually doing any work.  I stuck these guys in a jar for a week or two to see what would emerge.  What I got was tons of tiny black and brown wasps.  I took some pictures under a scope and threw them up on BugGuide where I they were quickly ID’ed by the excellent Bob Carlson.  BugGuide is awesome, because it is basically network of experts you can access without actually doing any work.

Close up of a female parasitoid wasp.

A female braconid wasp (Cotesia), emerged from the cocoons.

The black wasps turned out to be members of the genus Cotesia, in the family Braconidae.  These are parasitoid wasps which lay their eggs on (or in) caterpillar hosts.  The larvae develop inside the caterpillars Alien-style, slowly eating them alive, before eventually emerging to pupate and seek out new hosts.

A female hyperparasitoid ichneumonid wasp.

A female ichneumonid wasp (Mesochorus) emerged from the cocoons.

The brown wasps turned out to be a species of Mesochorus which are hyperparasitoids of the original black wasps.  These are parasitoids of parasitoids which lay their eggs in the egg or early instar larvae of the Cotesia parasitoid wasp as it develops in the caterpillar host.  (Read that sentence back to yourself until it makes sense.)  If this arrangement seems unnecessarily complex to you, just realize that hyper-hyperparasitoids also exist.  Every “hyper” kicks it down another level.  It’s basically the plot of “Inception” but with innards-devouring bugs instead of dreams.  (“Insection“?)