Resting on plant
- Habitat: Variety of habitats where suitable hosts are found
- Range: Worldwide
- Size: 2 - 16mm (1/16 - 5/8 inch)
- Species: 25,000
- Family: Braconidae
The Braconid wasp is small and will paralyse creatures to use as food for its young. But the Braconid wasp unlike other wasps will mummify its victim.
Most braconid wasps are very small and are hardly noticeable being only a few millimetres in length. They tend to be brown in color with reddish brown on their bodies and a darker almost black abdomen. The species Bathyaulax from South East Asia have a metallic blue abdomen that is very dark in color. They have a long ovipositor and their wings can either be brown, cream colored or patterned with shades of brown and yellow. Some have very faint patterns of veins on their wings. Their antennae is very long and broad.
Braconid wasps are highly parasitic and have a nasty and cunning way of rearing their young. The Braconid wasps like the Dryinid and Threaded-Waist wasps lay eggs inside another creature. Usually the braconid wasp hunts down butterfly and moth caterpillars as they are large, slow and a great source of food. The caterpillar is first stung and then a wound is then made in their body to create a cavity for the eggs to be laid inside. If the caterpillar is large enough they can be the host of hundreds of Braconid wasp larvae. Infested caterpillars can be seen with eggs not just inside their body but outside as well. When these eggs hatch the caterpillar is devoured by many newly born Braconid wasps. Not all species use caterpillars though. Some use flies and aphids as their hosts. These Braconid wasp stun their victim with a sting and then lay and egg inside the aphid or fly. This egg then grows and creates a sticky web that sticks the aphid or fly to the leaf it is on. Eventually the victim is mummified and the braconid larvae pupates in a cocoon. When the young Braconid wasp hatches it consumes its victim and then breaks a whole in the web to fly off. One species known as the Pygostolus sticticus is one of five similar species found in the northern hemisphere that attacks and uses weevils as their host.
Due to their parasitic nature, people use the Braconid wasp to help control populations of pests. Some Braconid wasps are hyperparasitoids meaning that they are parasitic to other parasites. The most common species of Braconid wasps is the Apanteles glomeratus which parasitizes the caterpillars of the white cabbage butterfly. A large caterpillar can contain over 150 Braconid wasp larvae.
Some Braconid wasps can be similar in appearance to the Threaded-Waist wasps (also known as Ichneumons). One key difference is in the wings; the Braconid wasps have less veins.
Braconid wasp larvae are pale and grub-like. They have minute jaws which distinguishes them from other grub like wasp larvae.
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What do you think of Braconids?
- x 5 = Totally awesome!
- x 4 = Cool.
- x 3 = Interesting.
- x 2 = Pretty boring.
- x 1 = Annoying pest.
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Braconids: Braconidae: discover the fascinating lives of the various types of bees and wasps in the world.