Parasitic Braconid Wasps Emerging

Parasitic Braconid Wasps Emerging

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Credit: KENNETH H. THOMAS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta) with parasitic Braconid Wasps (Cotesia congregata) hatching from attached cocoons. Hornworms are found in open areas, particularly those under cultivation, in the eastern half of the United States and southeastern Canada. The hornworm caterpillars feed on foliage of plants in the nightshade family, such as tomato and tobacco. Although they are called tobacco hornworms, they also attack the foliage of potatoes, eggplants, green peppers, and various weeds. Persistent rumors that caterpillars can sting with their horns are totally false. The larvae of the species is the damaging stage, leaving dark green or black droppings. Braconid wasps are found throughout North America and in open areas on plants where hornworm caterpillars feed. Braconid wasp eggs are laid on the host's skin. Larvae burrow inside the hornworm, which at first continues to develop almost normally but eventually dies. Braconid larvae stop feeding and cut holes in the host's skin in order to reach the outside. They pupate inside white cocoons spun on the host's skin. The caterpillar often dies before adult wasps emerge from cocoons. Braconid wasps are regarded as beneficial because they reduce the numbers of plant-eating insects. Summer. Orange, MA. USA. Wild.

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