The wasp (Agenioideus nigricornis) was first described scientifically in 1775 by Danish entomologist Johan Christian Fabricius, thanks to samples collected in Australia during Captain Cook's first great voyage (1768–1771).
"Since then, scientists have largely forgotten about the wasp," says Professor Andy Austin from the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology & Biodiversity. "It is widespread across Australia and can be found in a number of collections, but until now we haven't known the importance of this particular species."
The wasp is now being dubbed the "redback spider-hunting wasp" after a family in Beaconsfield, Western Australia, discovered one of them with a paralyzed redback spider in their back yard.
Florian Irwin, then aged 9, spotted the wasp dragging the spider several meters to its nest, and his father, Dr Peter Irwin, photographed the event and kept the specimens. Peter, who is an Associate Professor at Murdoch University, contacted the Western Australian Museum about the discovery; the Museum alerted Professor Austin and research fellow Dr Lars Krogmann at the University of Adelaide.
"The Museum knew we were doing research into the Agenioideus, which belongs to the family Pompilidae, the spider-hunting wasps. Little is known about them, despite various species of Agenioideus being distributed throughout the world," Professor Austin says.
"We're very excited by this discovery, which has prompted us to study this species of wasp more closely. It's the first record of a wasp preying on redback spiders and it contributes greatly to our understanding of how these wasps behave in Australia."
With a body less than a centimeter in length, an adult redback spider-hunting wasp is no bigger than its prey. It stings and paralyses the redback spider and drags it back to its nest, where the wasp lays an egg on it. The spider remains alive but is paralyzed. Once the egg hatches, the larval wasp feeds on the spider.
The redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti) is an Australian relative of North America's black widow spider.
"The redback spider is notorious in Australia, and it has spread to some other countries, notably Japan and New Zealand. Redbacks are one of the most dangerous species in Australia and they're mostly associated with human dwellings, which has been a problem for many years," Professor Austin says.
"The redback spider-hunting wasp is doing its part to keep the population of redback spiders down, but it doesn't hunt all the time and is unlikely to completely eradicate the spiders."
Dr Krogmann (who is now based at the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History) and Professor Austin have published a paper about the redback spider-hunting wasp in this month's issue of the Australian Journal of Entomology.Professor Andy Austin
Professor Andy Austin | Newswise Science News
Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
15.11.2018 | Earth Sciences