University of Adelaide researchers say a small native wasp that scientists had forgotten about for more than 200 years is now making a name for itself – as a predator of Australia’s most common dangerous spider, the redback.
The wasp (Agenioideus nigricornis) was first described scientifically in 1775 by Danish entomologist Johan Christian Fabricius, thanks to samples collected in Australia during Captain Cook’s first great voyage (1768-1771).
“Since then, scientists have largely forgotten about the wasp,” says Professor Andy Austin from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology & Biodiversity. “It is widespread across Australia and can be found in a number of collections, but until now we haven’t known the importance of this particular species.”
The wasp is now being dubbed the “redback spider-hunting wasp” after a family in Beaconsfield, Western Australia, discovered one of them with a paralysed redback spider in their back yard.