A couple nights ago it was raining, as usual. I kept my blacklight on, though, since it was just sprinkling on and off. Only a few moths came to the light, along with a smattering of beetles. I was about to give up and go to bed when I saw this lovely lady buzzing around. WOW!!!

She is Megarhyssa atrata, the Giant Ichneumon, and take a look at that ovipositor! Female ichneumonid wasps such as these use that long contraption to bore into wood and reach a soft squishy insect target inside, usually a horntail wasp larva. They will then lay an egg inside the larva’s body, and the young will hatch and eat it from the inside out.

I had never seen one of these alive before, and pinned specimens are usually beat up and broken. I was so impressed (and sleepy) that I decided to let her live (hey, I keep a kill jar by the door for times such as these). However when I opened the screen door to go back in the house, she followed me in! So we played a game of tag around the lights in my living room for about 10 minutes, with her pretending to sting me every time I got my hands on her… until I finally wrangled her safely and threw her outside. She bounced off my blacklighting sheet a few times and fluttered back into the woods. Definitely an interesting encounter.

Posted on June 15, 2011, in Hymenoptera, Invertebrates. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. you should see HER blog entry about this!

  2. Wow, that’s really amazing! I’m not surprised that specimins are usually beat up, that ovipositor looks really fragile. I showed the picture to my husband and he wanted to know if it’s prehensile!

    • It is sort of – they have to curl it up and bend it in order to use it to bore into wood to find their victim. They can’t grab onto anything though!

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Ryerson Lab

Functional Morphology, Sensory Biology, Behavior, Biomechanics

I spell it nature

Trying to make sense of the world through science and language.

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