CATS AND MICE AND GODLESS PARASITES

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ichneumonidae__phrudinae“I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”

~  Charles Darwin, letter to Asa Gray, May 22, 1860

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Female_Ichneumon_xanthoriusIchneumonidae is a family of parasitic wasps, and one of my particular research interests.  If you’ve never heard of a parasitic wasp before, think chest-burster from Alien, but for insects. A more scientific definition is that parasitoid wasps lay their eggs inside or on top of other insects; those eggs then grow and develop by feeding on their host’s tissue, resulting in the eventual death of the host.  Estimates of the total species range from 60,000 to over 100,000.