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Ovipositor of Long-horned Grasshopper (the two cerci are also visible)
A female fly in the family Tephritidae, with the ovipositor retracted and only the scape showing
Ovipositing Mexican fruit flies, showing the scapes of the ovipositors extended
Female Megarhyssa laying eggs with her ovipositor.
The process of oviposition in Dolichomitus imperator: 1 Tapping with her antennae the wasp listens for the vibrations that indicate a host is present; 2 With the longer ovipositor, the Wasp drills a hole through the bark; 3 The wasp inserts the ovipositor into the cavity which contains the host larva; 4 Making corrections; 5 Depositing eggs; 6 Depositing eggs.

The ovipositor is an organ used by some animals for the laying of eggs. In insects an ovipositor consists of a maximum of three pairs of appendages. The details and morphology of the ovipositor vary, but typically its form it is adapted to functions such as transmitting the egg, preparing a place for it, and placing it properly. In some insects the organ is used merely to attach the egg to some surface, but in many parasitic species (primarily in wasps and other Hymenoptera) it is a piercing organ as well.

Grasshoppers use their ovipositors to force a burrow into the earth to receive the eggs. Cicadas pierce the wood of twigs with their ovipositors to insert the eggs. Sawflies slit the tissues of plants by means of the ovipositor and so do some species of long-horned grasshoppers. In the wasp genus Megarhyssa, the females have a slender ovipositor (terebra) several inches long that is used to drill into the wood of tree trunks.[1] These species are parasitic in the larval stage on the larvae of horntail wasps, hence the egg must be deposited directly into the host's body as it is feeding.

The stings of the Aculeata (the wasps, hornets, bees, and ants) are ovipositors, highly modified and with associated venom glands. They are used to paralyze prey, or as defensive weapons. The penetrating sting plus venom allows the wasp to lay eggs with less risk of injury from the host. In some cases the injection also introduces virus particles that suppress the host's immune system and prevent it from destroying the eggs.[2] However, in virtually all stinging Hymenoptera, the ovipositor is no longer used for egg-laying. An exception is the family Chrysididae, members of the Hymenoptera, in which species such as Chrysis ignita have reduced stinging apparatus and a functional ovipositor.

Some insects, such as the Dipteran families Tephritidae and Pyrgotidae have well-developed ovipositors only partly retracted when not in use, and the part that sticks out is called the scape or oviscape, meaning the stalk of the ovipositor.

In the breeding season of some roach-like fish, such as bitterlings, the females have an ovipositor in the form of a tubular extension of the genital orifice. They use it when depositing eggs in the mantle cavity of the pond mussel, where their eggs develop in reasonable security. Seahorses have an ovipositor for introducing eggs into the brood pouch of the male, who carries them till it is time to release the fry into a suitable situation in the open water.

Media depictions[edit]

The Alien queen in the film Aliens is shown suspended in her nest using a giant ovipositor to lay the alien eggs. Unlike most real-life examples of oviposition however, the ovipositor is shown to be detachable and capable of being regenerated.

The BBC documentary Walking with Dinosaurs portrayed a Diplodocus mother using an ovipositor to lay her eggs.[3]

In the Japanese kaiju film Gamera vs. Jiger, the titular adversary injects an egg into Gamera's living body with an ovipositor.

In a 1997 post-apocalyptic role-playing video game Fallout and its sequel, Fallout 2, a player character can aim at an ovipositor of a mutated creature called floater.[4]

In Prometheus (2012 film), a British-American science fiction directed by Ridley Scott that is a loose prequel to his 1979 film Alien, when archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw is attacked by the "Engineer" (one of humanity's forerunners) she releases her alien offspring onto the Engineer and it thrusts an ovipositor down the Engineer's throat, subduing him.


  1. ^ Sezen, Uzay. "Two ichneumon wasps competing to oviposit". Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "Evolution Makes Sense of Homologies". 
  3. ^ Webber, Roy P. (2004). The Dinosaur Films of Ray Harryhausen. McFarland & Company. p. 96. ISBN 0-7864-1666-1. 
  4. ^ "Floater dascription at Fallout wiki".