An overview of Methocha wasps

Last updated on September 2nd, 2020

Methocha male and female

From: Saunders E., 1896 – The Hymenoptera Aculeata of the British Islands.

The small Aculeate wasps of the genus Methocha are slender animals with wingless, antlike females and winged males, and they belong to the Methochinae, a subfamily of the Thynnidae wasps, Hymenoptera Apocrita.

Thynnidae – also known as flower wasps, roll-wasps, Rollwespen – are a family of solitary wasps whose larvae are almost universally specialized ectoparasitoids on various beetle larvae, especially Scarabaeoidea and Cicindelidae.

Most thynnid species are small, but they can be up to 30 mm long.

Tiphia - image taken from www.oardc.ohio-state.eduTaxonomy

Until recently, some of the constituents of this family were classified in the family Tiphiidae, but multiple studies have independently confirmed that thynnids are a separate lineage. [from: Wikipedia].

Their classification includes the following Subfamilies:

Class Insecta

Order Hymenoptera

 Suborder Apocrita

 Series Aculeata

 Superfamily Thynnoidea

 Family Thynnidae

 Subfamily Anthoboscinae

 Subfamily Diamminae

 Subfamily Methochinae

Genus Methocha Latreille, 1804
Subg. Methocha Latreille, 1804
Subg. Dryinopsis Brues, 1910
Subg. Andreus Ashmead, 1903

Genus Karlissa Krombein, 1979

 Subfamily Myzininae

 Subfamily Thynninae

 

Description

Thynnid species are winged wasps, except for Diamminae, Methochinae and Thynninae whose females are wingless. Methochinae have an elongated thorax subdivided in three segments, antennas with 12 flagellomeres in females and 13 flagellomeres in males.

Go to the page Morphology of Methocha wasps.

Biology

Thynnid wingless females hunt ground-dwelling (fossorial) beetle larvae, or (in one case) mole crickets. The prey is paralysed with the female’s sting and an egg is laid on it so the wasp larva has a ready supply of food.

Cicindela - image taken from www.fogato.comMethocha females prey on ant-eating cicindelid larvae, which are commonly found in burrows along sandy soils. Initially, the wasp enters the burrow of the tiger beetle larva and is quickly caught in the predator’s deadly mandibles. But, thanks to its thin body that mimics an ant, it is able to escape the predator’s mandibles and to sting the larva in order to paralyze it. During the fight, the beetle larva can leave its burrow, but after the sting the Methocha wasp is able to drag the larva back into its own burrow. Once there, the wasp lays and glues an egg on the paralyzed tiger beetle larval body, then seals the entrance to the burrow with soil particles. The Methocha larva develops within 2-3 weeks and eats the paralyzed larva.

Cicindela larva in the burrows, by Mario Sturani, 1942
Cicindela larva in the burrows, by Mario Sturani, 1942
Methocha articulata approaching a Cicindela campestris larva, by John Walters - BWARS
Methocha articulata approaching a Cicindela campestris larva, by John Walters - BWARS
Methocha larva on Cicindela larva, by David Cappaert - Bugwood.org
Methocha larva on Cicindela larva, by David Cappaert - Bugwood.org

Distribution

The widespread Methochinae include only few species, which are absent from the Australian region.

Go to the page World distribution of Methocha wasps.


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For citation purposes

Agnoli G.L. (2020) An overview of Methocha wasps, in: Chrysis.net website. Interim version 27 September 2020, URL: https://www.chrysis.net/resources/methocha/overview/.