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A hyperparasitoid chalcid wasp (fam. Pteromalidae) on the cocoons of its host, a braconid wasp (subfamily Microgastrinae) which is itself a koinobiont parasitoid of Lepidoptera.

A hyperparasite is a parasite whose host is a parasite.[1] This form of parasitism is especially common among entomophagous parasites. The term is used loosely to refer also to parasitoids whose hosts are parasites or parasitoids; the distinction is not always clear or of interest in practice.[2]

Professor Erik Poelman of Wageningen University studied hyperparasitoidism on Pieris rapae, the small cabbage white butterfly. The P. rapae larvae are parasitized by the larvae of the wasps Cotesia glomerata and C. rubecula, both of which are in turn parasitized by the wasp Lysibia nana.[3][4]

Jonathan Swift refers to hyperparasitism in these lines from his poem "On Poetry: A Rhapsody":[5]

So nat'ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller fleas to bite 'em.
And so proceeds Ad infinitum.


  1. ^ http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Hyperparasite
  2. ^ P. J. Gullan, P. S. Cranston. The Insects: An Outline of Entomology. Pub: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4443-3036-6
  3. ^ Poelman, Erik H.; Maaike Bruinsma, Feng Zhu, Berhane T. Weldegergis, Aline E. Boursault, Yde Jongema, Joop J. A. van Loon, Louise E. M. Vet, Jeffrey A. Harvey, Marcel Dicke (November 27, 2012). "Hyperparasitoids Use Herbivore-Induced Plant Volatiles to Locate Their Parasitoid Host". PLOS Biology. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001435. 
  4. ^ Yong, Ed. "Enter the hyperparasites – wasps that lay eggs in wasps that lay eggs in caterpillars". Retrieved December 3, 2012. 
  5. ^ Jonathan Swift (1733). On Poetry: A Rapsody. And sold by J. Huggonson, next to Kent's Coffee-house, near Serjeant's-inn, in Chancery-lane; [and] at the bookseller's and pamphletshops. Retrieved 20 May 2013.