Nature Lessons: Parasitic Wood Wasps

Meet Ichneumonidae. We thought these strange insects were related to dragonflies at first. But I looked closely and saw their faces and general look were very wasp-like.

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male

This is the male wasp. He showed up first. The males wait for the females to find this log and lay eggs in the larvae of the horn-tail wasps. Thanks for letting us know what’s inside! Luckily, this post is not load-bearing and is  temporary.

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female

The males are big. About 2.5 inches. The female is huge: 3.5 or so. She has a long ovipositor that looks like a ferocious stinger. Intimidating but not aggressive. She showed up a few days later and started carefully exploring the post, tapping and moving along slowly. There were dozens of males to a handful of females.

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When she found the spot where the larvae were snuggled, she started drilling into the wood with her ovipositor. Her rear end sort of flipped inside-out and the ovipositor forked on either side of her abdomen. (The pictures would be better had I not been completely freaked out by the sight of her!)

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drilling

The drill took only 5-10 minutes.

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laying eggs

Then she deposited her eggs in the horn-tail wasp’s larvae. And took off. The males buzzed around for days afterward, waiting for the young females to emerge. We missed the hatching, sadly.

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male 2

So many little (and big) wonders to see and learn from surround us.

End of lesson.

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