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Entomophagous parasite

Entomophagous parasites (coined from Greek entomon "insect" and Gk. -phagos "eater of") are insects that are parasitic on other insects.



Nearly all insects are attacked by one or more insect parasites. This parasitic mode of life is in all cases confined to the larvae, but the adults always lead free lives. Some like Scoliidae. Thynnidae, Mutillidae, and other predatory wasps paralyze the host by stinging and lay their eggs on it.


The larvae feed on the paralyzed host and complete their development. Others seek the eggs, larvae or pupae of various insects and deposit their eggs within them. The larvae develop on these stages of the host, killing it in the end. Parasitic mode of life is met with in Hymenoptera, especially the Ichneumonoidea, Chalcidoidea and Proctotrupoidea and in Diptera (Tachinidae).

Outside these two orders, the habit has been developed in Strepsiptera, in many Neuroptera and in the Epipyropidae among Lepidoptera. The vast majority of Hymenopterous parasites are usually restricted to specific hosts. Some like Embidobia (parasitic on Embioptera), Platygaster and Polygnotus (on Cecidomyiidae), Scelio (on locust eggs) and Aphidiuc (on Aphids) have a restricted host range. The Tachinidae usually attack several different species of parasites leading to multiparasitism. In superparasitism different individuals of the same species attack the same individual of the host.


In hyperparasitism, a parasite of an insect is itself attacked by another insect parasite. Species of the chalcid Perilampus are often parasitic on the Ichneumonoid Microgaster and Apanteles, which are parasites of caterpillar of Lepidoptera. The hyperparasites are usually far less restricted in their selection of host than the parasites. Many hyperparasites are ectoparasites. The effect of attack by the parasite is usually slow death of the host, only very rarely leads to castration of the host (as in parasitism by Strepsiptera).

Social parasitism

The term social parasitism is given to the relation of the guests in the nests of various social insects. In the case of certain species of ants this takes a special form called slavery. The slave-driving ants regularly capture the pupae from the nest of other species of ants, carry them to their own nest and compel the workers emerging from the pupae to breed their own brood. The ant Anergates indeed rears no workers of its own, but invades the nests of Tetramorium and carries off the brood to its own nests. They are incapable of feeding for themselves but have to be fed by the slaves. Robbing is also a kind of social parasitism called cleptoparasitism. The so-called bee lice invade the nests of bees and devour the store of food in them. Brood parasitism, met within the Chrysididae, Mutillidae, robber bees, parasitic bees and in certain Meloid beetles, refers to the smuggling of the eggs into the brood nest of another insect.


  • Chapman, R.N, 1931. Animal Ecology, London and New York
  • Cockerell, T.D.A. 1891, The Use of Ants to Aphids, and Coccids, Nature, 44: 608;
  • Comstock, J.H, 1886. Relation to Ants and Aphids, Amer .Nat., 21:382.
  • Folsom,J. W. 1934. Entomology with Special Reference to its Ecological Aspects, Philadelphia: Blackiston and Sons, p.605
  • Shaffie,S.A., A. Alam and M.M. Agrawal, 1955.Taxonomic Survey of Eneyrtid Parasites in India, Aligarh Mus. Univ. Pub. Zool) 9.10; p. 238.
  • Mani. M.S. 1968,General Entomology, Oxford and IBS Publishing Co. (New Delhi Bombay Calcutta) 228-229
  • Clausen, Curtis P.,1940, Entomophagous Insects, McGraw-Hill, New York
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Entomophagous_parasite". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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