Glyptapanteles is a genus of endoparasitoid wasp found in Central and North America. The larvae of the members of Glyptapanteles sp. are distinguished by their ability to manipulate their hosts into serving as bodyguards.
Female Glyptapanteles oviposit into caterpillar hosts. Species parasitized by Glyptapanteles include Lymantria dispar, as well as Chrysodeixis chalcites and Thyrinteina leucocerae (both pictured). The caterpillar continues to grow and feed normally until the 4th or 5th instar, whereupon up to 80 fully grown larvae emerge from its body to pupate.
After the larvae of Glyptapanteles sp. emerge, the caterpillar takes up position near the cocoons of the pupae, arches its back, and ceases to move or feed. It will occasionally spin silk over the pupae. However, when disturbed, it begins to thrash violently. No longer inclined to eat, the affected caterpillar eventually dies. It has been demonstrated in experimental research (Grosman, et al.) that this behavior is to strike at and repel possible predators of the pupae, such as the shield bug Supputius cincticeps, thus improving their survival odds. Only about one in twenty non-parasitized caterpillars responded in this fashion. In 60% of cases, the parasitized caterpillars successfully warded off these potential predators. Mortality rates for pupae not guarded by parasitized caterpillars were significantly higher. That it is of no demonstrated benefit to the caterpillar indicates that this is an adaptation on the part of Glyptapanteles.
In the course of Grosman's research, it was discovered that not all larval Glyptapanteles emerge from their caterpillar host. One or two remain behind and active. Grosman has theorized that these larvae manipulate the host, foregoing their own chance at pupating in order to protect the brood.
G. flavicoxis, G. porthetriae and G. militaris have been evaluated by the USDA as possible bio-control agents for containing the invasive gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) population in the United States. Research has indicated that Pseudaletia unipuncta hosts fed fresh perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) leaves are optimal for the mass-breeding of G. militaris.
- Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga, a species of parasitoid wasp with similar larval ability to manipulate hosts to its own ends.
- Ampulex compressa, or the "Emerald cockroach wasp", a wasp capable of debilitating cockroaches into serving as docile hosts for its eggs.
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- Grosman, Amir; Janssen A, de Brito EF, Cordeiro EG, Colares F, et al. (June 4, 2008). "Parasitoid Increases Survival of Its Pupae by Inducing Hosts to Fight Predators". PLoS ONE. pp. 3. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0002276#pone.0002276-Elliott1. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- "Parasitoid turns host into bodyguard". Universiteit von Amsterdam Faculty of Science News. June 4, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-04.
- Fuester, Roger; Schaefer, Paul; Ertle, Lawrence (2004). "BIOLOGICAL CONTROL OF GYPSY MOTH AND OTHER TREE PESTS AND QUARANTINE SERVICE FOR BENEFICIAL INSECTS: 2004 Annual Report". USDA Agricultural Research Service. http://arsserv0.tamu.edu/research/projects/projects.htm?ACCN_NO=406997&showpars=true&fy=2004. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
- Reardon, Richard C.. "Biological Control of The Gypsy Moth: An Overview". USDA Forest Service. http://www.main.nc.us/SERAMBO/BControl/gypsy.html#9397. Retrieved 2008-07-14.
- Reis, Joana; Oliveira, Luísa; Garcia, Patricia (2003). "Effects of the larval diet of Pseudaletia unipuncta (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) on the performance of the parasitoid Glyptapanteles militaris (Hymenoptera: Braconidae)". Environmental Entomology 32 (1): 180–186. doi:10.1603/0046-225X-32.1.180.