Fuzzy white “eggs” on wheat or barley heads?

As wheat and barley fields continue to mature, fuzzy, white “egg-like” clusters may be observed (Fig. 1). Sometimes a dead caterpillar can be found alongside the fuzzy cluster. These white “egg-like” clusters are yet another species of @FieldHeroes! Cotesia parasitoid wasp cocoons arise from parasitoid larvae that develop within a single lepidopteran caterpillar then the parasitoid larvae burst out through the host’s body wall – in this case, likely from a wheat head armyworm (Dargida diffusa). Researchers are seeking intact parasitoid cocoons in order to learn what species of Cotesia is parasitizing the wheat head armyworm.

Figure 1. Fuzzy egg-like clusters which are Cotesia cocoons enclosing developing pupae. Photo: AAFC-Saskatoon T. Wist.

Request for help: If you find intact samples (i.e., developing Cotesia still within cocoons but NOT open as in Fig. 2), please contact Tyler.Wist@agr.gc.ca to arrange collection and shipping of the cocoons and any associated lepidopteran caterpillars. Remember, intact cocoons NOT with open ends are needed.

Figure 2. Empty Cotesia cocoons recently vacated by adult parasitoid wasps. Photo: AAFC-Saskatoon T. Wist.