Science, Tech, Math › Animals & Nature All About Braconid Wasps of the Family Braconidae Share Flipboard Email Print Holcy / Getty Images Animals & Nature Insects Ants. Bees, & Wasps Basics Behavior & Communication Beetles Butterflies & Moths Spiders Ticks & Mites True Bugs, Aphids, Cicadas, and Hoppers Amphibians Birds Habitat Profiles Mammals Reptiles Wildlife Conservation Marine Life Forestry Dinosaurs Evolution View More By Debbie Hadley Entomology Expert B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University Debbie Hadley is a science educator with 25 years of experience who has written on science topics for over a decade. our editorial process Debbie Hadley Updated October 01, 2019 Experienced gardeners love braconid wasps, the beneficial parasitoids that so visibly and effectively kill their despised tomato hornworms. Braconid wasps (family Braconidae) perform an important service by keeping pest insects under control. Description Braconid wasps are an enormous group of rather tiny wasps that vary greatly in form, so don't expect to identify them accurately without the help of an expert. They rarely reach more than 15mm in length as adults. Some braconid wasps are inconspicuously marked, while others are brightly colored. Certain braconids even belong to Müllerian mimicry rings. Braconid wasps look similar to their close cousins, the ichneumonid wasps. Members of both families lack costal cells. They differ in having just one recurrent vein (2m-cu*), if present at all, and fused second and third tergites. Classification: Kingdom – AnimaliaPhylum – ArthropodaClass – InsectaOrder – HymenopteraFamily - Braconidae Diet: Most braconid wasps drink nectar as adults, and many show a preference for nectaring on flowers in the mustard and carrot plant families. As larvae, braconids consume their host organism. Certain subfamilies of braconid wasps specialize on particular groups of host insects. Some examples include: Aphidiinae – parasitoids of aphidsNeoneurinae – parasitoids of worker antsMicrogastrinae – parasitoids of caterpillarsOpiinae – parasitoids of fliesIchneutinae – parasitoids of sawflies and leaf-mining caterpillars Life Cycle: Like all members of the order Hymenoptera, braconid wasps undergo complete metamorphosis with four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The adult female usually oviposits into or on the host organism, and the braconid wasp larva emerges ready to feed on the host. In some braconid species, like those that attack hornworm caterpillars, the larvae spin their cocoons in a group on the body of the host insect. Special Adaptations and Defenses: Braconid wasps carry the genes of polydnaviruses within their bodies. The virus replicates within the braconid wasp eggs as they develop within the mother. The virus doesn't harm the wasp, but when the egg is deposited into a host insect, the polydnavirus is activated. The virus prevents the host organism's blood cells from recognizing the parasitoid egg as a foreign intruder, enabling the braconid egg to hatch. Range and Distribution: The braconid wasp family is one of the largest insect families, and includes over 40,000 species worldwide. They are widely distributed throughout the world, wherever their host organisms are present. * See Insect Wing Venation Diagram for more information on the recurrent vein. Sources: Bugs Rule: An Introduction to the World of Insects, by Whitney Cranshaw and Richard Redak.Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects, 7th Edition, by Charles A. Triplehorn and Norman F. Johnson.Encyclopedia of Entomology, 2nd Edition, edited by John L. Capinera.Family Braconidae – Braconid Wasps, Bugguide.net. Accessed online April 4, 2014.Parasitoid Wasps (Hymenoptera), University of Maryland Extension. Accessed online April 4, 2014.Braconidae, Tree of Life Web. Accessed online April 4, 2014.