Photography by Max E. Badgley (1922-2006)
Trichogrammatoidea bactrae Nagaraja was introduced to the U.S. from Australia in the late 1980's, to serve as an egg parasitoid of the pink bollworm, Pectinophora gossypiella (Saunders). It is used in other countries, e.g., Thailand, as an egg parasite of diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella (L.). In the case of P. gossypiella, T. bactrae destroys the moth's eggs before caterpillars hatch. This is important, because hatchlings immediately burrow into cotton bolls, their feeding niche, where the boll protects them from predation.
Various species of Trichogrammatoidea work in concert with other, natural parasitoids to parasitize a high percentage of caterpillar eggs. Pirate bugs, big-eyed bugs, spiders and other predators in the natural environment manage to parasitize as much as 95 percent of the pest caterpillar eggs within a given ecosphere, exceeding the performance of most chemical pesticides.
Many Trichogramma species have been observed to develop through four larval instars, but Trichogrammatoidea bactrae develops through only two, hence its taxonomic designation. Inasmuch as larvae lack the typically well-defined primary segmentation, they are, one may presume, less mobile than typical larvae of this family.
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