University of Minnesota

The Parasitic Wasp

Contributed by G. Kittell

There is a parasitic wasp
   That preys upon a butterfly –
But in its early larval stage –
   And one will live and one will die.

And when these larva are quite young,
   And hid within their thistle nests,
The wasp implants a waspen egg,
   Which soon will hatch and then infest.

But unlike other parasites
   Which eat and cause their host’s demise,
This larval wasp can’t pupate quite,
   So allows its host to pupatise.

But changing in the chrysalid
   Is not to be a fair Lady,
But instead there is a waspen hid –
   A thing you’d think could never be.

And some this chrysalid’s eclose,
   And you expect a butterfly,
Instead it’s like a magic show
   As a wasp consumes your eye.

A wicked wasp for a comely cast
   Of color as the flowers nigh,
And nature has a plan that’s vast –
   But sometimes though, I don’t know why.

-- G. Kittell, 2003

A few years ago I did raise (quite?) a few Painted Ladies from larvae I found on thistle. Maybe 5/6 (~83%) were parasitized by wasps. But what fascinated me was unlike the tachinid fly, which kills the larva/pupa and then drops down on a silk thread, the pupae I collected turned dark and then, like magic, out came a wasp from a painted lady pupa. In all cases I thought I was getting a viable butterfly. -George

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