Welcome to my blog

This is where I post various musings about wildlife and ecology, observations of interesting species (often invertebrates)
and bits of research that grab my attention. As well as blogging, I undertake professional ecological & wildlife surveys
covering invertebrates, plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and some mammals, plus habitat assessment and management
. I don't work on planning applications/for developers. The pages on the right will tell you more about my work,
main interests and key projects, and you can follow my academic work here.

Thursday 15 May 2014

The moth-mummy returns

I've written about parasitic braconid wasps before, and you know, I probably will again - because they are fascinating. This one hatched recently from the mummified remains of what I think is a small noctuid moth larva that I found in our garden, possibly one of the Xestia or Noctua species.

Mummified remains of an unfortunate moth larva, showing the legs
Mummified moth larva showing the wasp's exit hole at the rear. The material sticking the mummy to its substrate can be seen beneath the head.
As you've gathered, this is an internal parasite (parasitoid) - in this case probably Aleoides borealis or something taxonomically close to it (written as "Aleiodes sp. near borealis"). This kills the host before it is fully grown - it then changes the host behaviour to ensure it adopts a parasite-frindly position, after which the parasitoid makes a slit in the host on the underside near the head. Through this slit, it produces a sticky fluid which glues the host in place. However, I don't only have an empty husk to show you - I collected the mummy before emergence, and this is what appeared in my hatchery.

Aleiodes sp. near borealis
Head (with ocelli) of Aleiodes sp. near borealis
Abdominal pattern of Aleiodes sp. near borealis
Parasitic Hymenoptera are notoriously tricky to identify, but I think this is a reasonable conclusion - as ever, I am happy to hear from anyone who has a better idea what it is!

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