ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Smallest Wasp Is Smaller Than An Amoeba

Updated on October 10, 2017
UnnamedHarald profile image

When I come across quirky, interesting facts, I want to dig deeper and then write about them with a hint of my original enthusiasm.

Yeah. Nope.

Image 1. A two-inch tarantula hawk wasp dragging an envenomed tarantula across the ground.
Image 1. A two-inch tarantula hawk wasp dragging an envenomed tarantula across the ground. | Source

Big, Small, Tiny

There are more than 600,000 species of wasps in the world. One, called the tarantula hawk (see Image 1), grows to more than two inches long (not counting its legs). It kills tarantula spiders and drags them off to her nest where she then lays a single egg in the carcass.

The species mymar dimidiatus (see Image 2), a member of the wasp family commonly called fairyflies or fairy wasps, averages only one millimeter (mm) in length. There are about 25 millimeters (mm) to the inch. Depending on your browser's font size, the fairy wasp is probably shorter than this dash: -.

Then there is the wasp with the grandiose name megaphragma mymaripenne. It has no common name so, for the purpose of this article (and an ironic twist), it will be referred to as mega. Mega averages five times smaller than dimidiatus at 200 µm (micrometers), or 1/5 of a millimeter, just twice the width of the average human hair. This wasp is smaller than a single-celled amoeba. Unfortunately, there are no public domain images of mega, so you will have to click on this link to appreciate the astonishing size of this insect, scaled into comparison with an amoeba and a parmecium. When I first saw this image, I was skeptical that such a wasp existed, but it's real all right.

This 1mm Wasp is Still 5 Times Larger

Image 2. A one-millimeter-long Mymar dimidiatus wasp (fairyfly). Still five times larger than megaphragma mymaripenne.
Image 2. A one-millimeter-long Mymar dimidiatus wasp (fairyfly). Still five times larger than megaphragma mymaripenne. | Source

Miracle of miniaturization

So how does a fully functioning insect, with wings, eyes, legs, a brain, muscles, a reproductive system, etc manage to be the size, say, of your average single-celled paramecium? Obviously, mega's thousands of individual cells are much smaller than a paramecium or an amoeba, which happen to be among the largest unicellular organisms in nature, but there is a limit to just how small a cell can be.

Russian scientist Alexey Polilov of Lomonosov Moscow State University thinks he's found the answer to this miracle of miniaturization. He discovered that most of the cells in its central nervous system do not have nuclei. An adult wasp has approximately 7,400 neurons (a housefly has 340,000), which is just enough to allow it to fly, feed, locate hosts and lay eggs. Of those 7,400, only about 350 have nuclei. A cell without a nucleus can be considerably smaller than a comparable cell with a nucleus.

Pupa To Adult To Egg To Pupa

To grow, however, neurons must have a nucleus. The nucleus, among other things, provides necessary proteins for the cell to function. Polilov found that, at the beginning, pupal stage, all of mega's neurons contain nuclei, but when they transition to adults, 95% of the nuclei are destroyed and the neurons take up less space. This loss doesn't seem to affect the functioning of the neurons, so Polilov postulates that proteins are stored when the wasp is a pupa and last long enough to allow the adult to exist up to five days, which is a decent age for such a tiny creature.

Megaphragma mymaripenne wasps seek out thrips in order to lay their own eggs inside the thrips' eggs. Thrips are garden pests that average one mm is size, so thrips eggs are pretty tiny, but of course not so small to mega. When the mega eggs hatch inside the thrips' egg, they feed on their unsuspecting host. Since these microscopic wasps are very particular about their target hosts, researchers are looking into ways to use them to control outbreaks of thrips swarms without harming other insects of use to gardeners and farmers.

© 2012 David Hunt

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      I couldn't believe it either when I first heard about it (you mean everything on the Internet isn't true?). I did further digging and it's all true. Thanks for reading and commenting, joe.

    • joedolphin88 profile image

      Joe 

      4 years ago from north miami FL

      Wow never knew a wasp could be that small, I wonder what it would be like to be bitten by one that small. Very educational hub.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Hi carol. Hope the new knowledge doesn't keep you up at night :) Thanks for your comment.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      Who knew all this about these little creepy crawling little beings. However, I am always glad to learn more new things. Very good and informative hub.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      DDE, I am flattered and encouraged by your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed it as much as I did researching and writing it.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      One of the most educational topics on HP

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for the comment and compliment, jessefutch. It is pretty creepy that there are wasps so small you can't really see them. Creepy, crawling flying wasps as small as amoebas. Yep.

    • jessefutch profile image

      jessefutch 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      This was a truly intelligent and interesting read. Fantastic hub, creepy wasps.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Larry, yes, I'd heard about the "tiny wasp" theory, too, but I certainly never appreciated how tiny a tiny wasp could be until I came across this tiny fellow. Thanks for the vote up.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for the thumbs up, Mhatter99. Glad you liked it.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      Speaking of smallish wasps, I remember reading that there's a tentative answer to the question of declining honeybee populations. Some Luddite environmentalists have even blamed cell phone towers! Apparently, the bees are parasitized by tiny wasps. Anyway, that's the latest buzz from the scientific world.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Fascinating, to say the least. Thank you.

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      I daresay you wouldn't see them coming, Jackie. Thanks for reading and commenting. Personally, I find it all a bit unsettling, these basically invisible wasps in addition to all the other invisible things crawling and floating around. Fascinating though.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      6 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Those fairy wasps must be what has been after me this summer! I can never see anything but they get me good! I would think it might be fleas or something like that but no one else is getting bit. Now that is a tiny wasp. As far as their life span I would say it is about 4 days too many. Very intelligent write though and I enjoyed it. I like bugs. Well, as long as they don't bite me.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)