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Chalcids

Photographed in controlled conditions after capture [6], Columbia, Missouri

Chalcids (superfamily Chalcidoidea, encompassing 22 families) are probably my favorite group of wasps— so diverse in morphology, life history, and host specialization. But they are extraordinarily difficult to photograph due to their tiny size and quick movements. In Australia, I remember a beautiful iridescent wasp with raptorial hind legs land on my diffuser while I was photographing a frilly, and I knew I did not have a remote chance of taking a picture. Until recently, I didn’t have the camera gear to showcase them and their intricate morphologies, so as I continue to encounter them, I’ll progressively add them to this post. The one pictured above is Metapelma spectabile (family Eupelmidae), a parasitoid of wood-boring beetles (e.g. Buprestidae, Curculionidae). With a body length of just 8 millimeters, it still dwarfs the vast majority of chalcid wasps. Be sure to visit my earlier post from Kenya about hundreds of tiny chalcids that emerged from a mantid ootheca.

Photographed after slight disturbance / during pursuit [2-3], Sarapiquí, Costa Rica

Unlike most Eupelmids which parasitize beetles, the brilliant blue and orange Phlebopenes presumably specializes on oil-collecting bees of the genus Tetrapedia. They will use ovipositors twice their body length to pierce Tetrapedia nesting cavities in soft wood, laying eggs which will hatch and consume the larvae of their hosts. Although I can’t contribute any observations of this directly, I pursued this individual for around 10 minutes as it antennated the spokes of an old gazebo.


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