'Protective' new wasp species named after Idris Elba

Washington, Nov 19 (PTI) A tiny new species of wasp which kills an invasive pest that threatens several crops in India has been named after British actor and musician Idris Elba, researchers say.

The parasitic wasp was recently discovered in Guanajuato, Mexico, where it was found to parasitise the eggs of an invasive stink bug, known as the bagrada bug, which is a major pest of cruciferous vegetables.

Researchers, including those from Colegio de Postgraduados in Mexico, suggest that the species might prove to be a Heimdall-like 'protector' for many crops.

Idris Elba played the character Heimdall in a number of Marvel movies including Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War.

Heimdall's namesake, Heimdallr, is a Norse deity believed to be the sole protector of the bridge linking the human world and the realm of the gods.

The genus Idris was described in 1856 and now contains over 300 species and many more species are still undescribed, according to the study published in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

Species of Idris were previously known to only parasitise spider eggs.

therefore, it was unexpected when specimens of Idris were found to emerge from eggs of the bagrada bug by Refugio Lomeli-Flores and his team in Guanajuato.

Advanced methods in molecular forensics were used by scientists to match the DNA of the adult wasp with DNA left behind in the stink bug egg from which it emerged, independently confirming the results.

The specimens were then sent to taxonomist, Elijah Talamas from the Florida State Collection of Arthropods (FSCA) in the US, who determined that it was an undescribed species.

The discovery of this wasp marks an important step towards the development of efficient and natural control of the stink bug species Bagrada hilaris in North America, the researchers said.

Commonly known as the bagrada bug, it is native to Africa, but is already an established and important pest of over 74 plant species in India, southern Europe, southern Asia and the Middle East, they said.

Measures to halt the bug's invasion have proven largely ineffective, and its distribution is expected to reach new ecosystems of economical importance.

While not unheard of, it is uncommon for native parasitoids to attack an introduced host, the researchers said.

Idris elba is exceptional because it demonstrates that these wasps can make the leap from parasitising the eggs of spiders to the eggs of stink bugs, they said.

The scientists rejected the possibility of the species having been introduced alongside its host.

They noted that the unexpected association could be either the result of a broad host range, or a case of lucky confusion, where the parasitoid tends to mistake the eggs of the stink bug for those of a spider. PTI SARSAR