This Wasp’s Larvae Sometimes Grow Hundreds of Soldier Clones—But Why?

Entomology Today

Copidosoma floridanum The parasitoid wasp Copidosoma floridanum has been closely studied by entomologists for its extreme proliferation at the embryonic stage, with as many as 3,000 larvae emerging from a single egg. Some of those larvae develop into “soldiers,” and a new study shows more will do so in response to competition from other parasitoids in the same host but not to environmental conditions such as heat shock or bacterial infection. (Photo credit: John Rosenfeld, Bugguide.net)

Imagine, for a moment, having 3,000 twin sisters. You all live inside a caterpillar, but it’s home, and your numbers serve as a veritable army against any trespassers.

Such is the life of the parasitoid wasp Copidosoma floridanum, one of the insect world’s most fascinating examples of polyembryony, in which multiple embryos form from a single egg. C. floridanum females lay eggs inside the eggs of certain moth species; when the moth larva hatches, the…

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