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Leucospid wasp

Parasitoid wasp, Leucospis gigas, female

Leucospis gigas – female

Earlier this year I enjoyed a short break on the Greek island of Kefalonia. I took quite a few photos of insects, many of which I have still to identify. Needing help I uploaded this image of a wasp to the Hymenopterists Forum on Facebook. Almost immediately Irenel E. Popescu came back suggesting it might belong to the Leucospidae, a small specialised group of ectoparasitoid wasps within the Chalcidoidea superfamily.

Using this as a starting point, and after a further trawl of images on the internet, I concluded that it was most likely the Parasitoid Wasp Leucospis gigas.

This family of wasps is parasitic to a variety of other stinging wasps and bees. The female will use her unusual ovipositor to drill into an already existing nest and lay her eggs. After a few days, these will hatch into voracious larvae that will feed on the ova of the host.

An unusual feature is that the female’s ovipositor is recurved and lies along the dorsal side of the metasoma (the egg laying tube is arched up onto her back) and you can just about see this in the photo. Another diagnostic feature is that the hind femora (thighs) are often greatly enlarged, with a row of teeth-like serrations along the lower margin, as in the related family Chalcididae (Chalcid Wasps).

They are often black with yellow, red or white markings.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Very cool wasp. I’m going to have to remember that family; I might have a couple similar looking, yet to be identified in the archives.

    November 10, 2014
    • Yes it has a very distinctive ‘caspsule-like’ rear end. They are very rarely encountered except where their hosts are abundant. In US, the most common species is the similar looking Leucospis affinis, which I believe attacks the nests of leafcutter bees.

      November 10, 2014
      • Thanks for the species ID — that may just be the one! There appears to be a red and black variant which looks similar to the one I photographed.

        November 10, 2014
  2. I’d be interested to see that sometime.

    November 10, 2014
  3. Nice catch!

    November 10, 2014
  4. John Mills #

    How did you get such a great photograph?
    Did you use special equipment or settings please?

    January 11, 2019
    • Hi John, I use a Nikon camera, currently a D800 but I believe that was taken with a D5000. I use a Nikon 105mm macro lens and use aperture priority. Generally hand-held using natural light. I don’t use photo-stacking or flash but don’t have any problems with those that do.

      January 14, 2019

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