Rediscovering a wasp after 101 years

June 20, 2016

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A species of wasp that is a natural enemy of a wood-boring beetle that kills black locust trees has been rediscovered, more than 100 years after the last wasp of this species was found.

The discovery is significant because the wood-boring beetle, known as the locust borer, is considered a serious pest that has discouraged planting of black locusts, which played an important role in American history. The trees, whose wood is strong, hard and extremely durable, helped build the Jamestown settlement and were featured prominently at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

The only previous known specimens of the wasp (Oobius depressus) date back to 1914 and were found in Morristown, Illinois. The problem with those specimens is that they were missing their heads and antennae, making them difficult to identify even by specialists of that wasp family, Encyrtidae.

That led Serguei V. Triapitsyn, director of the UC Riverside Entomology Research Museum, and Toby R. Petrice, an entolomogist with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service Northern Research Station in Lansing, Mich., to search for new specimens.

This was not an easy task because eggs of locust borer, particularly ones parasitized by this wasp, are extremely difficult to find. Adults of the locust borer itself, on the other hand, are common in the Midwest in early fall because they feed on the pollen of goldenrod.

Because females visit black locust trees to lay eggs, the scientists placed an insect trap designed to collect beetles and other arboreal insects in the canopy of a black locust tree at Rose Lake State Wildlife Area in Bath Charter Township, Mich., from August to October 2015.

Petrice installed and maintained the trap and collected samples in ethanol, which were then sent in early 2016 to the UC Riverside Entomology Research Museum for sorting in Triapitsyn's lab by Vladimir V. Berezovskiy, a volunteer who is a retired museum preparator.

The scientists found one female wasp that perfectly matched both the original description and the remains of the type specimens of Oobius depressus. It had been collected on Oct. 6, 2015.

Triapitsyn made a positive taxonomic identification, photographed it, and then re-described the species based on the new specimen. This adult female wasp is about 1.2 mm long, shining black, with a flattened body that allows it to look for locust borer eggs beneath the bark scales of black locust trees.

A manuscript with this redescription has been accepted for publication in the scientific journal of the Michigan Entomological Society, The Great Lakes Entomologist.
-end-


University of California - Riverside

Related Wasp Articles from Brightsurf:

Death from below: the first video of a parasitic wasp attacking caterpillar underwater
A previously unknown species of Japanese parasitic wasp was observed and filmed to dive underwater to parasitize moth caterpillars.

Penn Medicine scientists engineer bacteria-killing molecules from wasp venom
A team led by scientists in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has engineered powerful new antimicrobial molecules from toxic proteins found in wasp venom.

Genomes offer new insights into fig-wasp symbiotic system
In a recent study, researchers from Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (FAFU) and the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) provided insights into fig-wasp coevolution through comparative analyses of two Ficus genomes - one with aerial roots and one without, one monecious and one dioecious, as well as the genome of a coevolving wasp pollinator.

A new species of Darwin wasp from Mexico named in observance of the 2020 quarantine period
Scientists at the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas in Mexico recently discovered five new species of parasitoid wasps in Mexico, but the name of one of them is quite striking: covida.

Wasp egg-laying organ inspires new tool to reduce trauma in minimally invasive surgery
A new surgery tool based on the egg-laying organ of parasitic wasps could advance minimally invasive surgery by enabling tissue removal in deeper areas of the body while further minimising trauma and patient recovery time.

Salute the venerable ensign wasp, killing cockroaches for 25 million years
An Oregon State University study has identified four new species of parasitic, cockroach-killing ensign wasps that became encased in tree resin 25 million years ago and were preserved as the resin fossilized into amber.

Unprecedented ground-based discovery of 2 strongly interacting exoplanets
Several interacting exoplanets have already been spotted by satellites. But a new breakthrough has been achieved with, for the first time, the detection directly from the ground of an extrasolar system of this type.

Parasitic wasp discovery offers chemical-free pest control for growers
A species of parasitic wasp discovered by chance could provide growers with a chemical-free way of controlling a major pest.

Wasp nests used to date ancient Kimberley rock art
Mud wasp nests collected from Kimberley sites with the permission of traditional owners help scientists establish ancient art rock unique to the area is 12,000 years old not 17,000 years old

New parasitoid wasp species discovered in the Amazon -- can manipulate host's behavior
A research group from the Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku studies the diversity of parasitoid insects around the world.

Read More: Wasp News and Wasp Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.