Species in the genus Melittobia belong to the family Eulophidae of the Order Hymenoptera. They are tiny wasps about 1.5 mm long and they show a remarkable plasticity of behavior. Uninseminated females can survive and eventually produce progeny of both sexes even in the absence of preferred hosts. They exhibit arrhenotokous parthenogenesis, and are gregarously developing ectoparasitoids of a wide range of hosts (pupae and prepupae) in various insect orders including Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Diptera, and Hymenoptera. After mating, females produce a clutch of progeny in which about 95 % of the offspring are females. Melittobia displays pronounced sexual dimorphism with males being blind and flightless, very rapid life cycle (about 25 days). Males produce a pheromone that attracts females, and they have an elaborate courtship ritual. If males contact other males, they engage in ferocious battles. They are excellent organisms for laboratory experiments and are also valuable as classroom animals to aid in the study of genetics, ecology, biology and evolution.
Jorge M. González
University of Georgia, Athens
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Life Cycle of Melittobia digitata
Ciclo de Vida de Melittobia digitata
Described from North Carolina, U.S., it can be found also in Mexico and Canada. It is quite common in the southeastern U.S. where its natural hosts are mud daubers and potter wasps. It is commerciably available as a model insect used for teaching various concepts in different biological fields and many activities have been developed with them.
Web Site References
My thanks to John Pickering and Denise Lim for help developing the Melittobia pages and Jonathan Dye for illustrations.
- Dahms E. 1984. Revision of the genus Melittobia (Chalcidoidea; Eulophidae) with the description of seven new species. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 21(2): 271 - 336.
- Dahms E. 1984. A review of the biology of species in the genus Melittobia (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae) with in terpretations and additions using observations on Melittobia australica. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 21(2): 337 - 360.
- González JM, Matthews RW. 2002. Life history development and sex ratio of Melittobia australica and M. digitata (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae) on M. rotundata (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) and Trypoxylon politum (Hymenoptera: Sphecidae). The Great Lakes Entomologist 35(1): 85 - 91.
- Matthews RW. 1997. Teaching ecological interactions with mud dauber nests. The American Biology Teacher 59(3): 152 - 158.
- Matthews RW, Flage LR, Matthews jr. 1997. Insects as teaching tools in primary and secondary education. Annual Review of Entomology 42: 269 - 289.
- Matthews RW, Koballa jr. TR, Flage LR, Pyle EJ. 1996. WOWBugs: New Life for Life Science. Riverview Press, Athens, GA. 318 pp.