Parasitoids in the forest

Parasitoidism is a striking behavior that occurs in different groups of insects in order to ensure their survival. It happens in a particular life stage (generally larvae) when they are parasites of a host and once they have reached their desired level of development, they kill their host. They are also important for ecosystem balance because they have a high degree of specialization – being specific for a host. The hosts include different groups of insects like spiders, Butterflies, Moths, cockroaches, and other parasitoids (hyperparasitoids).

At MLC biological station we have a lot of species that are parasitoids and hyperparasitoids of other insects. Overall, we have identified more than fifteen different species that behave this way. The most common is the scorpion wasp (Ichneumonidae) which is one of the most diverse wasps in the world with around 24000 recorded species and some are hyperparasitoids. For this family, we have identified almost 50 different morphotypes that are specialized in a specific host.

Another interesting group is the Spider wasp (Pompillidae) that are a group who specialize in laying their eggs in the prosome of different species of spiders. We have also identified some species of flat wasps (Bethylidae), defined by the position of their antennae that lay their eggs in some beetles. The parasitoids and hyperparasitoids are important for the economy because species are often biological controllers of different types of crops.

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Blg. Javier Amaru Castelo- Senior Researcher