Parasitic wasps

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Parasitic wasps
Wood wasp parasitic wasp (Rhyssa persuasoria) piercing a spruce trunk in which it is looking for host larvae (wood wasp larvae)

Wood wasp parasitic wasp ( Rhyssa persuasoria ) piercing a spruce trunk in which it is looking for host larvae (wood wasp larvae)

Class : Insects (Insecta)
Order : Hymenoptera (Hymenoptera)
Subordination : Waist Wasps (Apocrita)
Partial order : Legimmen (Terebrantia)
Superfamily : Similar parasitic wasps (Ichneumonoidea)
Family : Parasitic wasps
Scientific name
Latreille , 1802
Veins in the wings
Egg-laying process in a giant parasitic wasp ( Dolichomitus imperator )
The giant wood wasp is not closely related to the ichneumon
wasps , despite its external similarity. As a wood wasp it belongs to the plant wasps . Your larvae are z. B. parasitized by the parasitic wasp ( Rhyssa persuasoria ).
Itoplectis maculator injects its eggs into pupae of the plum spider moth . Video (1 m 22s)

The parasitic wasps (Ichneumonidae) probably are the most species-rich family , it is described about 30,000 species, and it is estimated about 60,000 species. They occur all over the world. More than 3,300 species are known in Germany, almost 1,500 species in Switzerland and more than 4,000 species in Central Europe.

Occasionally the name "Ichneumonidae" is used as a designation for the special way of life, which not only the representatives of the Ichneumonidae family, but also other legims have, which is why the Ichneumonidae are also called "true parasitic wasps" or "parasitic wasps in the narrower sense".


Ichneumon wasps are slim and usually have a distinct ovipositor, which can also be very long. The coloring is often dark, often with yellow markings, but sometimes also of different colors. The antennae are long and thin (flagellate), with at least 16 limbs, usually half the length of the body or longer. The sternites are soft-skinned. The veining of the forewings is an important basis for determination (see fig.).

The parasitic wasps are usually 6 to 17 mm long, on average around 10 mm long. The Ichneumonidae also include the largest species among the parasitoid hymenoptera ( Megarhyssa species can be up to 5 cm long).

Due to the large number of species and the inadequate processing, it is usually only possible for specialists to determine the species.

Way of life

The larvae of the parasitic wasps live as parasitoids . Holometabolic insects , butterflies , plant wasps , beetles and the like are parasitized . a. Some specialized forms also parasitize in spider cocoons, where they feed on the spider eggs, or as ectoparasites on the spiders themselves. The wasps of the genus Polysphincta suck on the abdomen of certain orb- web spiders and use biochemical additives to induce them to follow a different weaving pattern. You can build cocoons as a breeding cave. Then the spiders are killed. Exopterygota however, be spared by current knowledge of this family (but not about the jewel wasps that the parasitic wasps in the broader sense count).

The parasitization rates by the Ichneumonidae can be high in the field of over 50 percent up to 80 percent and even 90 percent, especially with mass developments of the host species. As a result, the parasitic wasps act as very important antagonists of many pest species and keep their populations within limits in a natural way.

Some Ichneumonidae species of the Campopleginae subfamily that parasitize butterfly caterpillars have an endogenous viral vector from the Polydnaviridae family , which is only formed in the calyx cells of the ovaries of the wasps and, after co-injection with the offspring, the metabolism , the immune reaction and the behavior of the Wirts changed.

The adults of the parasitic wasps often lick honeydew or other vegetable juices. Some species absorb body fluids from the hosts after they have pierced them. Most parasitic wasps fly without humming, many trembling with their antennae when sitting or walking around. There are also wingless parasitic wasps (genus Gelis ) that resemble ants.

Subfamilies with choice of species

The family is currently divided into 41 subfamilies, the phylogeny of which is still largely unclear. The following list follows DS Yu (status: 2012), partly with changes from Bennet et al. 2019

Economical meaning

Parasitic wasps are of economic importance in controlling insects that are undesirable to humans; however, this is difficult to quantify . Some parasitic wasps are bred commercially and used in biological pest control, e.g. B. to minimize the populations of the stable fly and also to control food moths , leek moths , clothes moths or wood pests.

Literary meaning

In ancient China, it was believed that parasitic wasps do not have young but turn caterpillars into parasitic wasps. This presumed transformative power appears again and again in philosophical and literary works; so z. B. in Book XIII of Zhuangzi's Book of the True Southern Blossom Land.

Aristotle described an insect under the name Ichneumōn (“feeler”) in the Historia animalium : “But the wasps, which are called Ichneumons, which are smaller than the rest, kill the spiders, drag the corpses into old dilapidated walls or other riddled bodies and cover the hole with clay; from this, however, the sensing wasps arise. ”This passage was taken over by the Roman Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis historia . It can be assumed that Carl von Linné was aware of this text when he gave a parasitic wasp this name (the genus Ichneumon in the new sense, however, actually parasitizes butterflies).

In ancient Greek, the same name also denotes an Egyptian stealthy cat ( Herpestes ichneumon , cf. Ichneumon ), which, according to ancient tradition (also in Aristotle), should crawl into the mouth of the sleeping crocodile and bite its heart from here.

The apparent cruelty of the way of life (including the cannibalism among the larvae) of the Ichneumonidae from a human point of view preoccupied philosophers, scientists and theologians in the 19th century, since this way of life is incompatible with the existence of a good and intervening God ( theodicy ). Charles Darwin found the example of the Ichneumonidae so disturbing that it reinforced his doubts about the existence of a Creator, as he wrote in 1860 in a letter to the American naturalist Asa Gray :

“I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and benefit 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. "

“I cannot see the evidence of purposeful creation and all-round benevolence as easily as others, even if I wish to. To me there is too much misery in the world. I can not convince me that a benevolent and omnipotent God would have created the Ichneumonidae with the intention that they feed on the inside of caterpillars, or that a cat with mice play. "

Web links

Commons : ichneumon wasps  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Family Ichneumonidae - Ichneumon Wasps - BugGuide.Net. Retrieved June 5, 2020 .
  2. a b Ichneumonidae. Retrieved June 5, 2020 .
  3. Coll-11-_dav: Real ichneumon wasps (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae). In: Office for Outdoor Ecology Dr. Jürgen Esser. Retrieved June 5, 2020 (German).
  4. G. Artmann-Graf: New Ichneumonidae finds (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) for Switzerland . In: Entomo Helvetica . tape 5 , 2012, p. 109–115 ( ).
  5. a b H. H. Dathe: Insecta . In: Textbook of Special Zoology. 2nd Edition. tape I , 5th part. Spektrum Akad. Verl., 2003, ISBN 3-8274-0930-6 , pp. 638 f .
  6. Der Spiegel 35/2016, p. 107, slave of the parasites accessed on
  7. Jump up Elisabeth A. Herniou, Elisabeth Huguet, Julien Thézé, Annie Bézier, Georges Periquet, Jean-Michel Drezen (2013): When parasitic wasps hijacked viruses: genomic and functional evolution of polydnaviruses. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series B 368: 1626. doi: 10.1098 / rstb.2013.0051
  8. E. Königsmann: Insects . In: Urania animal kingdom . Insects 2. rororo animal world, 1974, ISBN 3-499-28011-6 , p. 307-311 .
  9. Donald LJ Quicke; Nina M. Laurenne; Mike G. Fitton; Gavin R. Broad R. (2009): A thousand and one wasps: a 28S rDNA and morphological phylogeny of the Ichneumonidae (Insecta: Hymenoptera) with an investigation into alignment parameter space and elision. Journal of Natural History 43: 1305-1421. doi: 10.1080 / 00222930902807783
  10. Taxapad Ichneumonoidea
  11. Andrew MR Bennett, Sophie Cardinal, Ian D. Gauld, David B. Wahl: Phylogeny of the subfamilies of Ichneumonidae (Hymenoptera) . In: J. Hymenoptera Res. Band 71 , 2019, p. 1–156 , doi : 10.3897 / year 71.32375 .
  12. Bio Aktuell 02/09: Storage protection: rough parasite manners ( PDF ; 483 kB)
  13. ^ Friederike Voigt: ichneumon wasps in action . In: Restauro . Journal for Conservation and Restoration 2/2017, p. 26f.
  14. Historia animalium, book 5, part 20. Translation by Alfred Brehm, from Brehms Thierleben
  15. Nonmoral Nature . Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  16. Letter 2814 - Darwin, CR to Gray, Asa, May 22 [1860 ] . Retrieved April 5, 2011.