A newly discovered endoparasitic wasp species from South Africa has been named after the Hollywood actor Brad Pitt. According to the study published on April 26 in the journal ZooKeys, this Conobregma bradpitti wasp was one of the two newly found wasp species belonging to a large group of wasps that lay their eggs inside a host.

Apparently, the discoverer from the Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, Buntika Butcher, was assessing the new species in her laboratory under the poster of Brad Pitt, Butcher’s favourite movie star. The Brad Pitt wasp measures less than two millimetres.

The body is deep brown which almost looks black but the head, antenna, and legs are brown-yellow. The species sports brighter-coloured wings. The wasp’s cocoon safely grows inside the host, including moth or butterfly caterpillar, and eventually emerges as a fully grown insect ready to repeat the cycle over again.

wasp species

This is the new endoparasitic wasp species Conobregma bradpitti. Credit: Dr. Buntika A. Butcher

Many may be horrified by the Conobregma bradpitti’s parasitic behaviour but the researchers point out that the insect is actually very valuable in agriculture. Apparently, they help control the insect population that ravages crops.

The other wasp species was discovered in India. Researchers from Chulalongkorn University and the University of Calicut in India describe the species in their paper. The wasp larvae’s hosts usually have a protection system that protects them but the wasps flood the hosts with too many eggs to overwhelm this protection response.

Additionally, an endoparasitic wasp can bring down the defense system of its larvae’s host by simply injecting the host with a virus. Many hosts may seem completely defenceless against these parasitic wasps but other ones, particularly ants, know how to keep them from being attacked.

Ants violently move their mandibles and legs to injure the wasp. However, the ants’ strategy still fail because wasps counter this defence by moving close to them too fast for the ants to move.