Gall Wasps Galore

The American Museum of Natural History has a new video series called Shelf Life, bringing the museum’s massive collections to life. Of interest to those who study hymenoptera is recent episode featuring Kinsey’s Wasps.

The “Kinsey” referred to in the title is Alfred Kinsey, of course, who is best known for his work on human sexuality.


Perhaps less known is that fact that Kinsey started out his career as an entomologist who studied gall wasps. Gall wasps are tiny insects that lay their eggs in plant tissues. The plant responds to the feeding of the larvae by growing abnormal structures called galls. The red, round galls in the photograph above are being tended by ants.

Kinsey collected a massive number of gall wasps during his tenure as an entomologist, some 7.5 million specimens according to the video. Incredible!

Makes you wonder about how that experience of collecting such a vast amount of data influenced his later research.

What do you think?

No Fear

How would you react if you saw one of these?


You can’t tell from the photo, but this insect is roughly an inch-and-a-half long.


No need to be alarmed, however. That is not a stinger pointing out of it’s body, but the wasp’s extra-long abdomen.

Unless my recollections are wrong, it is a male ichneumonid wasp of the genus Megarhyssa.

In any case, no cause for alarm.

Note:  This particular wasp emerged from a pile of firewood. The larvae feed on grubs within the wood.