New Parasitic Wasp Species Discovered In Southern US

Posted January 27, 2017

Euderus set is also known as the crypt-keeper wasp. Because that's literally what it does to another kind of wasp. Scientists at Rice University studied the crypt-keeper wasp and offered information on the new species.

Though researchers are not quite sure how the crypt-keepers locate gall wasps inside of a tree, the team believes they infect the host by laying eggs directly into its body as it develops. When the egg hatches, the larva takes over the mind of the gall wasp and manipulates it into digging out, researchers explain. But the female Euderus set lays an egg in this crypt and prevents the gull wasp from emerging from it in the spring, by making a much smaller hole through which it was supposed to get out.

This is where the Crypt-keeper wasp comes in and thwarts its plan.

The ravenous wasp has been given a scientific moniker in honour of the sinister, jackal-headed diety Set who killed his own brother and chopped him into countless pieces.

The detailed research findings were published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Those were an entirely new species of wasps, and given its behavior, the scientists called them the "crypt-keeper wasps".

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"It could be the parasitoid cues hosts to excavate early, but makes them do it less well than usual", said lead author Kelly Weinersmith, a biologist at Rice University, in a statement. "They only go part way and then they get stuck", noted Weinersmith in a press release.

"That's what I love about parasite manipulation of host behavior", she said. When a crypt-keeper wasp needed to get through the extra bark they were three times more likely to become trapped and die than when they needed to get through a hole that had no bark. "So numerous stories that have been uncovered are just as cool as the coolest science fiction movie", Kelly Weinersmith, an evolutionary biologist at Rice who studies parasites, said in a statement, which also made a reference to the film "Alien".

The insect's range extends along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast, from Georgia to Texas.

The team hopes to expand on this study in order to figure out how the crypt-keepers manage to change the gall wasp's behavior.

Because close to 600 species in the Eulophid family are found in North America, and many attack or serve as biocontrol agents for agricultural pests, the researchers would also like to know if E. set's manipulations are more common. He could tell that they were made by gall wasp - or Basettia pallida - which is a parasite that puts eggs in plants. They can be found across the US.