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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 hyperparasitic microsporidian, Nosema podocotyloidis, a parasite of a digenean, Podocotyloides magnatestis, which is itself a parasite of the fish Parapristipoma octolineatum [1]

A hyperparasite is a parasite whose host is a parasite.[2] 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.[3]

A well-studied case of hyperparasitoidism is the small cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae). 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.[4][5]

Jonathan Swift refers to hyperparasitism in these lines from his poem "On Poetry: A Rhapsody":[6]

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.

Hyperhyperparasites have also been observed (specifically, a fungus on a fungus on a fungus on a tree).[7]


  1. ^ Toguebaye, B. S., Quilichini, Y., Diagne, P. M. & Marchand, B. 2014: Ultrastructure and development of Nosema podocotyloidis n. sp. (Microsporidia), a hyperparasite of Podocotyloides magnatestis (Trematoda), a parasite of Parapristipoma octolineatum (Teleostei). Parasite, 21, 44. doi:10.1051/parasite/2014044 PMID 25174849
  2. ^ http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Hyperparasite
  3. ^ P. J. Gullan, P. S. Cranston. The Insects: An Outline of Entomology. Pub: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4443-3036-6
  4. ^ Poelman, Erik H.; Bruinsma, Maaike; Zhu, Feng; Weldegergis, Berhane T.; Boursault, Aline E.; Jongema, Yde; van Loon, Joop J. A.; Vet, Louise E. M.; Harvey, Jeffrey A. (November 27, 2012). "Hyperparasitoids Use Herbivore-Induced Plant Volatiles to Locate Their Parasitoid Host". PLoS Biology. 10 (11): e1001435. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001435. PMC 3507920Freely accessible. PMID 23209379. 
  5. ^ Yong, Ed. "Enter the hyperparasites – wasps that lay eggs in wasps that lay eggs in caterpillars". Retrieved December 3, 2012. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "Fungi Cubed" (PDF).