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Garden Allies: Ichneumonid Wasps

Articles: Garden Allies: Ichneumonid Wasps

Big fleas have little fleas,
Upon their backs to bite ‘em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
and so, ad infinitum.
Ichneumonid (ick - new - mon - id) wasps are harmless hymenopterans, nonaggressive garden residents, and enormously beneficial garden allies—yet few know them by name. Gardeners encountering ichneumonids will find them walking about on plants with a characteristic staccato movement. With their long antennae in constant motion, they go in search of a suitable host insect in which to lay an egg. Ophion species adults, fluttering around lights in the evening, are familiar to both gardeners and non-gardeners. While many species may visit gardens, few are truly common; many species can only be seen in their wild habitat.

Western giant ichneumon (Megarhyssa nortoni) Illus: Craig Latker
Slender, thread-waisted, and often with laterally compressed bodies, ichneumonids vary in size but most are small. All are parasitoids—parasitic insects that invariably kill their hosts—and are closely related to braconid wasps (see Pacific Horticulture April 2008). There are more parasitoids among the hymenopte...

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