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Garden Allies: Braconid Wasps

Articles: Garden Allies: Braconid Wasps

Apanteles sp. Illus: Craig Latker
Good Wasps in Small Packages
The word “wasp” usually brings to mind some sort of pesky insect: the yellow jackets that join us for a picnic, or the paper wasps that dangle a threateningly large nest over the front door. Yet most wasps are innocuous garden residents, usually non-aggressive, diminutive, and stingless. Aphid parasitoid wasps are so small that they go about their business virtually unnoticed, but their presence is easily ascertained by examining an aphid colony. Look for papery black or beige “mummies,” many with a neat exit hole gnawed by an emerging adult wasp. Several wasp families include species that attack aphids. The small, non-stinging wasps in the family Braconidae include aphid parasitoids, as well as wasps that attack other garden pests such as caterpillars, flies, true bugs, and beetles.

Braconid wasps can be distinguished by the typical, narrowed “wasp-waist.” They may be shades of black, red, brown, or yellow, often with a dark spot at the edge of the forewing. The antennae have sixteen or more segments, and are shorter than the forewing. Although...

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