Parasitoid wasp (Syntretus lyctaea)

A bright September day finds George C. Varley, Hope Professor of Entomology sweeping under the oaks at Wytham. He captures some parasitoid Ichneumonid wasps (Phaeogenes invisor) that prey upon the oak leaf-roller moth (Tortrix viridana). On looking closer, he realises that they too are parasitized. Of this, he tells L Cole, a research student from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Cole diligently collects more Ichneumonids to see what will emerge from the parasitized bodies. A few days later, small larvae wiggle out and quickly spin fluffy white cocoons in which to pupate. After months of waiting, the following spring a minute brown wasp breaks out of a cocoon. This hyper-parasitoid (a parasitoid of a parasitoid) is a Braconid wasp that is completely new to science!

With excitement, the wasp is given a name – Syntretus lyctaea and formally described in a paper published in the Entomologist Monthly Magazine. The holotype voucher is mounted on a tiny piece of pointed card and deposited in the Hope Entomological Collections at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.