#208 + #209 Dark Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus ) parasitized by Strepsipteran X. pecki

23 September

Two for the price of one today. #208 which rather dominates the photograph is the golden or northern paper wasp, is widely found throughout southern Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Central America. It often nests around human development as it greatly prefers areas in which wood is readily available for use as nest material, therefore they are also found near and in woodlands and savannas. P. fuscatus is a social wasp that is part of a complex society based around a single dominant queen along with other cofoundresses and a dominance hierarchy.

BUT – and this is the good bit – #209 is Strepsipteran X. pecki (this was pointed out to me by a specialist in rather an abstruse corner of taxonomy who saw the photograph). You can see bulges in the wasp’s abdomen with little heads poking out – those are the parasitic larvae. The Strepsiptera are an endopterygote order of insects with nine extant families that include about 600 described species. They are endoparasites in other insects, such as bees, wasps, leafhoppers, silverfish, and cockroaches. Females of most species never emerge from the host after entering its body, finally dying inside it. The early-stage larvae do emerge because they must find an unoccupied living host, and the short-lived males must emerge to seek a receptive female in her host. They are believed to be most closely related to beetles, from which they diverged 300-350 million years ago, but do not appear in the fossil record until the Mid-Cretaceous around 100 million years ago

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