Tiny Parasitic Wasp Named After Idris Elba Hijacks Stink Bug Eggs
by Andrea Michelson/Smithsonian.com
With more than 300 species and counting, the genus Idris is a particularly widespread variety of parasitic wasp. The tiny insects, usually no bigger than the tip of a pencil, are known to hijack spider eggs for their larvae’s sustenance and development. But because of their small size and distribution across the planet, many species of Idris remain unknown to science.
Elijah Talamas, a taxonomist at the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, once joked to a colleague after seeing an ad for a movie with a certain British movie star, “Someone has just got to name a species Idris elba.” But he never expected to have the opportunity to name an Idris specimen himself. The wasps he studies typically parasitize stink bug eggs, and all known species of Idris infested arachnoid hosts.
Meanwhile, in a lab in Guanajuato, Mexico, four parasitoid wasps crawled out of the eggs of an invasive species of stink bug named Bagrada hilaris. Also known as the bagrada bug, this stink bug was first sighted in Guanajuato in 2017. The voracious pest mainly feeds on cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and brussels sprouts, a diet that could have devastating consequences in a region responsible for 70 percent of Mexico’s broccoli production. So a team of entomologists led by Refugio Lomeli-Flores set out to conduct a survey of natural enemies of the bagrada bug, collecting its eggs in fields throughout Guanajuato to watch for signs of parasitism.