Newly Discovered Wasps That Mummify Caterpillars Named After Shakira and Jimmy Fallon

Posted on May 8, 2014

Shakira wasp Aleiodes shakirae

New wasp species have been discovered in the cloud forests of Ecuador. 24 new species of the wasps were found by Professor Scott Shaw, University of Wyoming, Laramie, and his colleagues.

The wasps all prey on caterpillars and mummify them in the process. Some of the newly discovered wasp species are named after Jimmy Fallon, John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Ellen DeGeneres, Shakira, Robert Frost and Ecuadorian artist Eduardo Kingman.

The Shakira wasp, Aleiodes shakirae, is pictured above. The golden dot is the head of a pin and not a feature on the wasp's wing. The Jimmy Fallon wasp, Aleiodes falloni, is pictured below.

Jimmy Fallon wasp Aleiodes falloni

Aleiodes wasps are parasites of forest caterpillars. The female wasps search for a particular kind of caterpillar and inject an egg into it when they find it. The parasitism does not immediately kill the caterpillar. The caterpillar continues to feed and grow for a limited time. The caterpillar eventually succumbs to being fed on by the wasp larva. The host caterpillar shrinks and mummifies and the immature wasp makes its cocoon inside the mummified caterpillar. The Shakira wasp was named after the singer because it causes its host caterpillar to bend and twist in an unusual way. This reminded the scientists of Shakira's belly-dancing. A caterpillar with abdominal bending, that was parasitized by the Shakira wasp, is pictured below.

Caterpillar mummified by Shakira wasp

The research paper is published here in Zookeys.

Photos: Eduardo Shimbori

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