Xenos vesparum is an insect species, whose females are permanent entomophagous endoparasites of Polistes paper wasps. They dwell their entire lifespan in the abdomen of the wasp. One particular species of social wasp it has been known to infect is Polistes gallicus. Younger members of a wasp colony tend to be targeted, although X. vesparum displays parasitic behavior in all stages of this host.
According to Fabio Manfredini of Pennsylvania State University, co-author of an Animal Behaviour study of this insect's odd life cycle, published on 8 October 2011, the parasite infects a European worker wasp and completely alters its worker caste behaviour. The infected wasp begins to suffer nutritionally, then flies to meet with other infected wasps. The male parasite exits the wasps abdomen and mates with the female parasites which stay inside their host. Wasps infected with the male parasite die. Wasps infected with the female parasite then fatten themselves up much like queen wasps do. They then fly to meet with other uninfected queen wasps. Then when the parasite is mature, the infected wasp flies to mingle with other uninfected wasps, thereby spreading brood and larvae into new environments.
- Hughes, D.P.; J. Kathirithamby; L. Beani (2004). "Prevalence of the parasite Strepsiptera in adult Polistes wasps: field collections and literature overview". Ethology, Ecology and Evolution 16 (4): 363–375. doi:10.1080/08927014.2004.9522627. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
- Mating of Xenos vesparum
- Xenos vesparum electron-microscope image
- R. Dallai, L. Beani, J. Kathirithamby, P. Lupetti and B. A. Afzelius (2003), "New findings on sperm ultrastructure of Xenos vesparum (Rossi) (Strepsiptera, Insecta)", Tissue and Cell 35 (1): 19, doi:10.1016/S0040-8166(02)00099-X, PMID 12589726
- Fabiola Giusti, Luigi Dallai, Laura Beani, Fabio Manfredini and Romano Dallai (2007), "The midgut ultrastructure of the endoparasite Xenos vesparum (Rossi) (Insecta, Strepsiptera) during post-embryonic development and stable carbon isotopic analyses of the nutrient uptake", Arthropod Structure & Development 36 (2): 183, doi:10.1016/j.asd.2007.01.001, PMID 18089098
- Brandon Keim (20 October 2011). "Parasite turns wasps into outsider zombie queens". Wired. Retrieved 2011-11-02.
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