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Hyperparasitic Wasp (Taeniogonalos gundlachii)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Hyperparasitic Wasp

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If what is said about the enemy of my enemy being a friend is true, then this type of wasp should be welcome inside most insects.

Updated: 01/04/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
A tiny insect, this species of wasp is an example of a hyperparasitic wasp. This means it is a parasite of the parasites on an insect. There are species of wasp that lay eggs on caterpillars, and these wasp larvae feed on the insides of the caterpillar once they hatch, making them parasites. A hyperparasitic wasp does not feed on the caterpillar; it feeds on the other types of wasps that do. In order to do that, these tiny wasp eggs are consumed by the caterpillar, which blindly chews through the leaf they are laid on. This strategy brings the hyperparasites in close contact with their own food source. All of this hatching and feasting occurs inside the caterpillar, so it is unlikely to survive even if the hyperparasite consumes the parasites before they can pupate. If the caterpillar does not have parasites inside them to eat, the hyperparasitic larvae die.

While hyperparasitic wasps can be beneficial in controlling unwanted parasitic wasp populations, there are situations where a parasitic wasp needs protection from them. When a caterpillar is destroying crops or other plants, introducing parasitic wasps to the area makes them a useful tool in managing caterpillar populations. Introducing hyperparasitic wasps limits the efficacy of the management program.

Hyperparasitic wasps are much smaller than ordinary wasps. They are often black with yellow bands and markings. Because they are small and fast, catching sight of a hyperparasitic wasp is a rare event, which seems fitting for an insect with such an uncommon life history. ©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect antennae icon
Flying insect icon
Rounded insect body icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Trigonalidae
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          Genus: Taeniogonalos
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            Species: gundlachii

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Taeniogonalos gundlachii
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 6mm to 8mm (0.23" to 0.31")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; yellow
Descriptors: small; smoky wings; long antennae; yellow feet; curled abdomen; yellow around eyes; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 6mm (0.2in) and 8mm (0.3in)
Lo: 6mm
Md: 7mm
Hi: 8mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Hyperparasitic Wasp may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Hyperparasitic Wasp. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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