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Global Forests -
Little Known or Interesting Factoids About Trees and Tree Physiology

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                     Jim Rediker - Nurseryman -  Arborist  - TDA Certified
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WASP CATERPILLARS

I
magine being eaten alive -- from the inside out! That is what happens to any caterpillar unlucky enough to become the nest for an egg laid by a caterpillar wasp. As ALIEN EMPIRE shows, the wasps lay their egg in or on the caterpillar. The egg then hatches into a larva that consumes its landlord.

Remarkably, some plants have evolved a way to use caterpillar wasps to defend them from attack by hungry wrigglers. Here's how it works: When a caterpillar bites certain plants, it leaves behind a drop of saliva that causes the plant to release chemicals of its own, called terpenoids. Like a silent scream or a chemical distress signal, the terpenoids warn the wasps that caterpillars are nearby. The wasps then flock to the plant, laying eggs on the vulnerable caterpillars. Several days later, the tiny wasp larva hatches and begins eating the caterpillar alive.

Some wasps get a little help from a special virus in protecting their newly laid eggs. The "flying hypodermics," as some scientists call them, injects the virus into the caterpillar along with the egg. It prevents the caterpillar's immune system from attacking the egg. In return, the wasp supports the virus by providing a host. The only loser in the arrangement is the hapless caterpillar.

Other caterpillar wasps target caterpillar eggs, not the worms themselves, for egg laying. The tiny Trichogramma wasp, for instance, is only 1/50th of an inch long, but it can lay up to 300 of its own eggs inside caterpillar eggs. The Trichogramma larvae then feast on the caterpillar eggs. Farmers have enlisted this tiny ally in their effort to control pests, from peach borers to tent caterpillars, that would otherwise grow into adult caterpillars hungry for their crops.

Disclaimer
:   These three articles on Cankerworm, Bagworms and Tent Caterpillars may contain pesticide recommendations that, are subject to change at any time. These recommendations are provided only as a guide. It is always the pesticide applicator’s responsibility, by law, to read and follow all current label directions for the specific pesticide being used. If any information in these recommendations disagrees with the label, the recommendation must be disregarded. No endorsement is intended for products mentioned, nor is criticism meant for products not mentioned. The Writer assumes no liability resulting from the use of these recommendations.     
 
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Contact: cell: 830.257.8871
                
email: jim.rediker@usa.net
                     Jim Rediker - Nurseryman -  Arborist  - TDA Certified
SCENIC HILLS NURSERY

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