|D. irritator- Sheila Watson|
While we tend to think of all wasps as stinging menaces, only females of some species have defensive stingers. This dangerous female tendency might have broader implications among humans but I won't go there. The ichneumon wasps do not sting in defense but instead pass their eggs through their modified stinger, sometimes with some venom to paralyze their prey. They are parasitoids, their larvae developing on the larvae of beetles, lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and other wasp species.
|D. irritator female Tom Murray|
Their reproduction strategy is a story of persistence. Their larvae require a woodboring insect larval host to feed upon. First the female wasp crawls along the log, tapping its antennae on the bark in search for the scent of an underlying larva appropriate for her young. Interestingly, the male also does this, but it is hunting for newly emerging females to mate with.
|D. irritator male Tom Murray|
|Wow, take a look at her ovipositor!|
Until recently, all known larval parasitized hosts were bark beetle larvae. A recent paper describes finding D. irritator parasitizing Dectes texanus, a pest infesting soybeans. If this turns out to be a widespread finding, this little wasp may become the farmer's new best friend.