CORRECTION: False Information!!!!!! Below you can read our original post about the parasitic wasp and the Tomato Hornworm. Luckily, our friend and honeybee ally Toni Burnham shined light on our misinformation. We are always learning here at the Youth Garden and nature never ceases to surprise us!
Don’t be afraid of these dirt digging Parasitic Wasps unless you’re a Tomato Horn Worm. We’ve noticed a number of these large wasps flying around the Washington Youth Garden lately helping us fight pests the organic way. The photos above show a tomato hungry hornworm covered in white rice shaped parasitic wasp eggs (external parasites). These eggs will hatch and the larva will feed on the worm, killing it.
CORRECT INFORMATION: The large wasp pictured above is actually a Cicada Killer, a type of parasitic wasp that catches and paralyzes cicadas (not the hornworm), capturing them to bring back to their underground burrow. There, they will enclose the paralyzed cicada in a sealed nest cell and lay an egg on top of it. After the egg hatches, the grub will eat the cicada and overwinter underground in a cocoon it weaves itself! It will pupate in the spring and hatch once again as a full born winged Cicada Killer in July, just in time to repeat the cycle! Whoa!
The parasitic wasps that parasitizes the Tomato Hornworm are tiny 1/8 inch wasps called a braconid wasp (not pictured above). The braconid wasp lays many eggs inside the hornworm caterpillar. The larva eat the inside of the hornworm while leaving the heart and essential organs intact, thus keeping it alive but paralyzing it. When they’ve had enough caterpillar to mature they dig holes through the skin to the outside of the hornworm where they make silky cocoons (YES, pictured above!) to hangout in while they pupate and wait for their magnificent transformation into a winged braconid wasp…off to lay inside the next hornworm.
Parasitic wasps also lay inside aphids!!!! Amazing!