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Wasps Are Our Friends: Part IV

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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When most people think of wasps, they imagine a stereotypically striped stinging insect. Such wasps are part of the family Vespidae, but they are, in fact, a minority of species and unrepresentative of their order. Taken by sheer number of species, the average wasp is quite a different animal: timid, stingless, and very, very small.

Encarsia pergandiella laying eggs in a silverleaf whitefly. Both the wasp and her target are research animals in Molly Hunter's lab at the University of Arizona.

Encarsia pergandiella is scarcely larger than a speck of dust. This particular speck, however, is our friend. Encarsia is used extensively in agriculture as a natural control of the silverleaf whitefly, a pest of tomatoes, cotton, cucumbers, and other crops. Like the majority of wasps, Encarsia is not aggressive and does not sting.

photo details:
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x lens on 12mm of extension on a Canon 20D
ISO 100, f/10, 1/250 sec
diffuse off-camera flash

Alex Wild About the Author: Alex Wild is an Illinois-based entomologist who studies the evolutionary history of ants. In 2003 he founded a photography business as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work, and his natural history photographs appear in numerous museums, books, and media outlets. Follow on Twitter @myrmecos.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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