Taking a break yesterday from writing for our new Sunday School curriculum, I stepped outside to find an ichneumon wasp on the small cement slab outside the back door of our new garage. It took a few moments to realize what she was. Female ichneumon wasps look like oversized wasps with slender, cinnamon-brown bodies accented with yellow; black-framed yellow bands stripe her abdomen which ends in a four inch long, black, whip-thin tail with which she lays eggs in the larvae of various kinds of insects – including those of horntail wasps. After mating and after locating a tree or a stump or a rotting log in which the larvae of horntail wasps live, it can take her up to 40 minutes to locate where a horntail larva is in the wood, drill through the wood into its burrow or even into the larva’s body, and lay an egg.
She only has 27 days to do this. Then she dies. In a few weeks, the ichneumon wasp eggs hatch in the horntail larvae and eat the horntail larvae. When the ichneumon wasp larvae are done eating, they enter the pupa stage of their life, during which they are transformed from a chubby grub into a slender, winged wasp. Early the next summer, the ichneumon wasps emerge from trees ready to start their species’ life cycle over again.