Drilling-in and chewing-out of hosts by the parasitoid wasp Spalangia endius (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae) when parasitizing Musca domestica (Diptera: Muscidae)
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Many organisms are protected from natural enemies by a tough exterior. Such protection is particularly important for immobile stages, such as pupae. The pupa of some insects is protected by a puparium, which is a shell formed from the exoskeleton of the last larval instar. However, the puparium of certain fly species is drilled through by adult females of the wasp Spalangia endius Walker. The female wasp then deposits an egg on the fly pupa within the puparium. After the wasp offspring finishes feeding on the fly pupa, it chews through the puparium to complete emergence. Despite the apparent toughness of the puparium, there was no detectable wear on the ovipositor of S. endius females even when females had been encountering fly pupae (Musca domestica L.) for weeks, and regardless of whether the pupae were large or old or both. Energy dispersive spectroscopy did not reveal any metal ions in the ovipositor’s cuticle to account for this resistance against wear. Offspring of S. endius that chewed their way out of pupae also showed no detectable wear on their mandibles. Tests with a penetrometer showed that the force required to penetrate the center of a puparium was greater for larger and for older pupae; and an index of overall thickness was greater for large old pupae than for small old pupae. The lack of an effect of pupal size or age on wear may result from wasps choosing locations on the puparium that are easier to get through.