Above: Diadegma insulare, a kind of parasitoid wasp. UF/IFAS photo by Lyle Buss.
Parasitoids are like parasites in that they live on or inside of another organism, called a host. However, unlike parasites, parasitoids ultimately kill their hosts.
Parasitoid wasps are often associated with biological control because they use various pests as hosts. These wasps lay their eggs inside of these other insects’ eggs or larva. These deposited eggs will hatch, spend some of their development with the host and finally emerge. Caterpillars attacked by parasitoid wasps may be seen crawling with wasp larvae!
In addition to caterpillars, parasitoid wasps can help control pests such as grubs, whiteflies and aphids.
Parasitoids can take several specialized forms:
- Hyperparasitoidism is when a parasitoid uses another parasitoid as a host. Up to five degrees of hyperparasitoidism have been recorded (that is a wasp, in a wasp, in a wasp, in a wasp, in a wasp).
- Gegarious parasitoidism occurs when several parasitoids can live in one host. Parasitoid party!
- Kleptoparasitoidism happens when a parasitoid attacks a host that is already a host for another parasitoid.
Learn more about parasitoids at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_beneficial_insects.