Pasitoids expert visits Port Augusta

TALK: PhD Student Erinn Fagan-Jeffries, who will present a talk ‘Parasites of moths and butterflies’, at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden Visitors Centre on Saturday, June 3. PHOTO: Friends of the Australian Arid Lands.

TALK: PhD Student Erinn Fagan-Jeffries, who will present a talk ‘Parasites of moths and butterflies’, at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden Visitors Centre on Saturday, June 3. PHOTO: Friends of the Australian Arid Lands.

Have you ever seen weird cocoons on a dead caterpillar in your garden? Or have you ever ended up with a container of flies instead of a butterfly when rearing a caterpillar?

Port Augusta residents can have all their curious questions about the world of the wasp and fly parsitoids of moths and butterflies on Saturday June 3 at PhD Student Erinn Fagan-Jeffries’ talk, ‘Parasites of moths and butterflies’.

Held at the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden Visitors Centre at 1pm, Errin said she’s excited about coming to Port Augusta.

“I work on the taxonomy (naming and describing new species) of parasitoid wasps that infect caterpillars,” she said.

“I'm working on documenting Australia's biodiversity for this particular group of wasps, and trying to work out what caterpillars our native wasps arrack.

“The talk is a general interest talk about parasitoids and my PhD project.”

Erinn is a PhD student at the University of Adelaide, studying a group of wasp parasitoids of moths and butterflies.

Parasitoids are insects whose larvae (offspring) live as parasites which eventually kill their hosts such as catepillars or moths.

When a parasitoid wasp lays her eggs inside the host, the eggs hatch and the baby wasps (larvae) eat the host slowly from the inside.

They are careful not to kill the host too quickly. Erinn holds a Master of Science Communication and is passionate about getting non-scientists involved in research and observing the world around them.

She runs a citizen science project, The Caterpillar Conundrum where she asks the public to find caterpillars and collect them in the hope that some of these caterpillars will have the larvae of her parasitoids inside, thus contributing new host records when the wasps emerge from the caterpillar.

“It asks the public to find caterpillars in their garden or park and raise them to adulthood (although hopefully some of these will have parasites in them, giving us a new host record!),” she said.

“The more different areas/habitats people participate from, the more species of caterpillar (and therefore wasp) we are likely to discover.

“Even if people don't find parasites in their caterpillar, it's a good excuse to get outside and look at the insects in your local park and observe the lifecycle of a butterfly or moth up close.” 

Even if people don't find parasites in their caterpillar, it's a good excuse to get outside and look at the insects in your local park and observe the lifecycle of a butterfly or moth up close.

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