Monday, September 7, 2009

Did cotton candy explode on you or is that just your face---? Brachonid Wasps!

So, my double happiness (to get super Chinese on you) happened the same day I caught the tachinid fly accosting the hornworm:

Those weird cotton q-tip end shaped things are actually the larvae cocoons of the brachonid wasps!

YES! More beneficial insects in my garden! The system is not broken here!

Remember how I mentioned tiny flowers were very important in the garden? Well this is another beneficial insect whose adult form relies on those flowers for food while, once again, parasitizing (for moi) all the baddies in my garden.

Unfortunately I don't have any personal pics of the wasp itself but the links at the end of this posting will allow you to view the wasp in its full glory.

This wasp has an ovipositor (think the movie Aliens, sort of) on its rear that is like a long needle which injects its eggs into its hosts. Most of the time the time when the larvae are near the end of their cycle they end up killing the host while pupating inside it or near the host's dead body.

The really cool thing about the wasp and its egg-laying-larvae-living-in-host thing that really gets my ex-microbiologist wanna be self going is that that the wasp actually utilizes VIRUS SYMBIOSIS to suppress its hosts' systems and allow their larvae to develop within!

Brachonid wasps feed on many other pests such as aphids and certain flies and as many aphids live in colonies, when one aphid shows sign of brachonid wasp infection or has been "mummified" by an exiting wasp larva, that usually means the rest of the colony has been infected as well. SCORE!

It is good to note too that these wasps are only 12 mm in length and do not tend to sting people, so as they say in the Hitchhiker's Guide: "DON'T PANIC," when you see a wasp (in general). Unless of course you have an allergy... then, just walk slowly away...

I left my brachonid infected hornworm alone so that the larvae will develop and do their good work on the rest of the nasty green giants.