New Wasp Species Named After Dementors From Harry Potter

Posted on April 26, 2014

Ampulex dementor

A newly discovered wasp species, Ampulex dementor, has been named after the soul sucking dementors from the Harry Potter series. The name was voted on by visitors to the Natural History Museum Berlin. The way the wasp partly paralyzes its cockroach prey reminded the researchers of the fictional dementors created by author J.K. Rowling. The partially paralyzed cockroaches still have the ability to run after being stung, but the wasps can control their direction.

"The dementor's fictional behavior and effects reminded us of the effect of the stinging behavior of Ampulex on the behavior of its cockroach prey. After being stung by the wasp, specific behaviors of the cockroach are inhibited (e.g. escape behavior) while others are unaffected (e.g. locomotion). The wasp grabs the partly paralyzed cockroach by one of the antennae and guides it to a suitable oviposition location, the prey following the wasp in a docile manner. This is a unique strategy of behavioral modulation of a prey by a wasp's sting."
The wasp specimen was part of the museum's inventory of Thailand's insects initiated by Michael S. Sharkey from the University of Kentucky, USA. It belongs to the Ampulicidae family of cockroach wasps. The wasps are known for predating on cockroaches. Another Ampulicidae wasp, the jewel wasp, is also known for its ability to partially paralyze cockroaches by stinging their brains.

A research paper about the newly discovered wasp species is published here in PLoS One.

Photo: Michael Ohl, et. al./PLoS One

More from Science Space & Robots