The Smallest Insect

Fairy Wasp

Slide mount of Dicopomorpha echmepterygis female
Photo: John S. Noyes

The smallest known insect is the male of a fairy wasp, Dicopomorpha echmepterygis an egg parasitoid, Family: Mymaridae. At only 139 micrometers long, they are 4/5 the size of the next smallest insect. Parasitoid wasps that develop inside the egg of a insect must develop on the nutrients available within the egg. Consequently they are smaller than the egg host. In the case of Dicopomorpha echmepterygis, a single host egg contains 1-3 males and a single female. The female must be large enough to carry numerous eggs and be able to find new host eggs. The males need only mate with a female. One of the consequences of small size is difficulty in finding mates. In this species, males mate with females as soon as they emerge from the pupa. The smaller males develop more rapidly than their sister and lack both wings and eyes. They have no need of either. They have long legs to attach to a female as she emerges from her pupa. Mating is the final act of the male; it is incapable of traveling elsewhere.

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 behavior, by jjneal, Taxonomy. Bookmark the permalink.

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