Parasitic Wasp Control: Physical Characteristics, Habitat and How to Attract Parasitic Wasps

While there are many natural predators that you can attract to the garden, parasitic wasps are some of the most common. They can be highly beneficial in dealing with pesky pests, yet they are misunderstood by many, especially their ecological importance. To yield the highest level of effectiveness in using parasitic wasps, it is important to have a thorough understanding of how they work and how you can encourage their presence to the garden.

What are Parasitic Wasps?

Physical Characteristics

Belonging to the order Hymenoptera, there are more than 40 families of parasitic wasps, which can be further classified into more than 1,000 species. With this, their physical appearance may differ from one another depending on their specific type.

Most parasitic wasps are small, many of which are less than an inch in length. They have a slender and hairless body. Other physical characteristics include having two pairs of wings, three pairs of yellow legs, black head and thorax, and a slender connection between the abdomen and the thorax.

Parasitoid Wasp

A Parasitoid Wasp on a Leaf

Habitat

Female parasitic wasps live inside the body of their host, which is where they lay their eggs. They have an ovipositor, which they use to deposit the eggs in the body of their prey. When their eggs hatch, this is where they will consume the host, and hence, effectively killing them.

Most adult parasitic wasps survive in places with a temperate climate, commonly in the garden and freshwater. While many feed on pests, some species exclusively eat nectar and pollens. There are also instances wherein you can find them inside the house, which is the case when a parasite brings them.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of the parasitic wasps starts when their female counterpart deposit their eggs on their host. When the egg hatches, it consumes the prey, starting with its non-essential tissue. After which, it feeds on the critical organs of the host, and hence, killing it. Some species will undergo pupation while they are still attached to the body of the host.

Pests Consumed

The pests that they can control will depend on the specific species of the parasitic wasp. Generally speaking, however, they will feed on aphids, bagworms, beetle larvae, Colorado potato beetle, cabbage worms, gypsy moth caterpillars, Japanese beetles, mealybugs, leaf miners, tomato hornworm, tobacco budworm, squash vine borers, sawfly larvae, moth caterpillar, and scale insects, among others.

Parasitoid Wasp Eating

Parasitoid Wasp Dragging a Paralyzed Caterpillar

How to Attract Parasitic Wasps

The following are some of the best ways to attract parasitic wasps to the garden, making them effective as natural enemies of common pests:

  • Among others, the best way to attract them is to grow the right type of plants in the garden. In this case, some of the best include dill, cosmos, lemon balm, fennel, zinnia, yarrow, alyssum, allium, marigolds, lavender, and rosemary, among others. It will be good to have plants that grow flowers all throughout the year, which is an excellent way to encourage the presence of pollinating wasps. These wasps will be essential in the pollination of your garden flowers.
  • It will also be good to provide the right shelter for the parasitic wasps. They need to have suitable habitat so that they will survive and help to control the population of the pests you are trying to eliminate. While they love temperate environments, the heat of the summer can be too harsh for them. The same thing is true when it comes to low temperatures in the winter. Be sure to provide them with an ideal environment so that they will survive.
  • Moisture is one thing that parasitic wasps love, which will also make it an excellent way to attract them to your garden. You can place a shallow birdbath anywhere in the garden.
  • If you want an easy way to have parasitic wasps in the garden, the best thing you can do is to look for a distributor specializing in beneficial insects. Be sure to pay attention to the instructions on how to release the wasps, which will guarantee a high level of effectiveness. It is also important to use the right amount of wasps depending on the size of the area that you will treat.
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