Bone-house Wasp: Morbid Motherhood
ESF Top 10 New Species of 2015SHARE:
About the Bone-house Wasp
Name: Deuteragenia ossarium
How it made the Top 10: This insect, which tops out at about a half-inch (15mm) in length, has a unique way to protect its offspring. The wasp constructs nests in hollow stems with several cells, each separated by soil walls. The wasp kills and deposits one spider in each cell to provide nourishment for her developing young. Once her egg is laid, she seals off the cell and hunts a spider for the next cell. Rather than provisioning the final or vestibule cell with a spider, she fills it with as many as 13 bodies of dead ants, thus creating a chemical barrier to the nest. This is the first animal known to take this approach to securing the front door to a nest. This species, found in Gutianshan National Nature Reserve in eastern China, has significantly lower parasitism rates than similar cavity-nesting wasps. Camouflage is supplied by a veil of volatile chemicals emitted by the dead ants, thwarting enemies that hunt wasp larvae by scent.
Etymology: The epithet is from the Latin ossarium, meaning an ossuary or bone-house.
Type Locality: China, Zhejiang Province, Gutianshan National Nature Reserve
Holotype: Insect Collection, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.
Size: 7.4 to 15.2 mm
More information: Michael Staab, Michael Ohl, Chao-Dong Zhu, and Alexandra-Maria Klein. 2014. A unique nest-protection strategy in a new species of spider wasp. PLoS ONE 9(7): e101592.