Sunday, January 12, 2020

HumBug: Even Parasites have Nightmares

Posted By on Sun, Jan 12, 2020 at 11:10 AM

Some experts assert that the most common lifestyle in nature is that of parasitism. (Read Rachel Nuwer's interview with ecologist Kevin Lafferty "Parasitism is the Most Popular Lifestyle on Earth" for more on this.) The world of arthropods is no exception. I've mentioned before that mankind's deadliest opponent in nature is the synergistic combination of mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.
click to enlarge Bloated tick which apparently fell off the dog onto our bed. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Bloated tick which apparently fell off the dog onto our bed.
Our native species aren't vectors for the worst of the ailments but, locally, ticks can and do carry Lyme disease, which came to mind when we found a blood engorged female on our bed after the dog spent an evening there.

click to enlarge Even dedicated predators like this running spider have parasites like the red mite between its eyes. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Even dedicated predators like this running spider have parasites like the red mite between its eyes.

While there are hosts of insects that are parasites on all manner of animals, insects have their own specialized parasites that play an important part in controlling their populations. Often these are actually classified as parasitoids whose activity kills the host directly. Think of the creatures from the Alien movies popping out of folks' chests.
click to enlarge Tiny Perilampid wasp about 2 millimeters long. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Tiny Perilampid wasp about 2 millimeters long.
Apparently no one is immune. Even parasites have their own dedicated parasites. Tearing some siding off my house during remodeling, I was surprised to see hundreds of tiny wasps huddled together in apparent torpor under one of the boards.
click to enlarge Many tiny Perilampid wasps hid out under some old trim boards. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Many tiny Perilampid wasps hid out under some old trim boards.
According to www.bugguide.net, they are from the family perilampidae.
One source says some species of this family are hyperparasitoids who parasitize parasites entering the body of a secondary host — it might be a butterfly caterpillar that is infected with a parasitoid, such as a tachnid fly's larva entering it — and eating its way out of that parasite. Even our nightmares have nightmares.

click to enlarge Many members of the odd looking leucospid wasp family (note ovipositor held over her back) are hyperparasitoids. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Many members of the odd looking leucospid wasp family (note ovipositor held over her back) are hyperparasitoids.
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