How Low Can They Go?

Fairyflies are parasitic wasps that are among the smallest known insects. Huber and Noyes* described a new species of Fairyfly, Tinkerbella nana, from Costa Rica. The tiny wasp was found in sweep net samples of vegetation. Only the adults are known and not much about the biology of the new species is yet known.

Tinkerbella nana  Photo: J Huber

Tinkerbella nana
Photo: J Huber

Huber and Noyes raise an interesting question. Tinkerbella nana has wings and presumably flies. The female is at most 250 microns (0.25 mm) in length. The smallest known flying insects are fairyflies that are about 150 microns. Huber and Noyes argue that 150 microns is about the lower limit for flying insects. Insects smaller than that are expected to have issues with muscle size and strength needed to power the wings. Insects smaller than 150 microns, such as the fairy fly, Dicopomorpha echmepterygis, are wingless.

Some fairyflies not only use their wings for flying but swim with them as well. These fairyflies are egg parasitoids of aquatic beetles and swim to reach oviposition sites.

*Huber J, Noyes J (2013) A new genus and species of fairyfly, Tinkerbella nana (Hymenoptera, Mymaridae), with comments on its sister genus Kikiki, and discussion on small size limits in arthropods. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 32: 17-44.
doi: 10.3897/jhr.32.4663

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Environment, Taxonomy. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to How Low Can They Go?

  1. Jen says:

    I think the name that they use to describe these insects is pretty funny. Fairyflies and tinkerbella nana are very interesting.

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