|Braconid Wasp Ovipositing - Meteorus sp.|
Family Braconidae / Subfamily Meteorinae
Live adult female Braconid wasp photographed at Ogle County, Illinois. Size = 5mm
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This tiny parasitic wasp is busy laying eggs deep inside a flower. She walks around, sensing via antennae the vibrations of her prey, then inserts her ovipositor into the flower and lays an egg on (or in) the larvae hidden inside. This is the same process used by the giant ichneumon wasps, which drill into solid wood in many instances.
It amazes me. How does that wasp know exactly where and when the egg must be laid? For it must be laid inside the cell of the alien larvae - sometimes laid directly on the body of the prey, sometimes inside the host larva, where it will develop and eat the host from the inside out! I suppose they've been at this for millions of years and have plenty of practice.
The great Charles Darwin came up against one of the greatest tests of his religious faith when studying the Ichneumonidae and contemplating their seemingly evil and cruel ploy for exploiting other creatures; he thought the monstrosity too evil for God to have thought of it, much less condone it.
He wrote, in 1860, "I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice."
|This wasp was indeed busy - I watched her lay a dozen eggs in several different flowers in about 15 minutes. This creature is very small and very ethereal. You'll have to look close to spot one; they are also exquisitely camouflaged and their translucence transmits the background colors. |
These views show how this wasp completely unsheaths her ovipositor
Mother Nature certainly throws a colorful party!
Hymenoptera (Latin for membrane wing) is a vast assemblage of insects second only to Coleoptera (beetles) in the number of described species. Hymenoptera number some 115,000 species vs. 350,000 in Coleoptera. 18,000 of these species call North America north of Mexico home. Hymenopterans inhabit a wide variety of habitats, and show an incredible diversity in size, behavior, structure and color.
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