Garden Word of the Day
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Braconid wasps are tiny heroes of the garden, though rarely seen.
The list of edibles protected by braconid wasps is too long to include here, but it would include grapes, peaches, nectarines, apricots, tomatoes, apples, prunes, plums, broccoli, rutabagas, turnips, and cabbage, just to name a few.
Braconid wasp identification
There are over 12,000 different named braconid wasp species, worldwide, with another 40,000 or so, yet to be identified. Most are dark brown or black with reddish accents. It is estimated that there are 1,700 different braconid wasps in North America and they are all stingless. Braconid wasps can be as small as 1/13 of an inch long, or as big as 5/8 of an inch. If you can get one to hold still while you go find a hand lens, you would be able to see that these tiny wasps have antennas with 16 or more segments! What you are more likely to see are their oblong, white or yellow eggs sticking out of a host insect.
Braconid wasp diet
Adult braconid wasps, while they eat mostly pollen and nectar, are beneficial because they parasitize many garden pests. This means that they lay their eggs on or in other insects. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat their host. Garden pests vulnerable to parasitization by braconid wasps include:
Attracting braconid wasps to your garden
Parasitic and predatory wasps are attracted to mixed plantings that provide nectar and pollen, along with insect prey. To make your garden and landscape more appealing to these beneficial insects, be sure to include a wide variety of flowering plants at various stages of development throughout the growing season.
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