Cuckoo Wasp

Cuckoo Wasp

Cuckoo wasps are 76 species that feed primarily on other wasps. These wasps are like cuckoo birds in that they exploit the nest of another species to rear their young.


Cuckoo wasps often have a glossy green appearance.


Cuckoo wasps are found in various habitats, including urban areas, wooded areas, and heath.


Cuckoo wasps are ubiquitous in the Australian landscape.

Nutrition and eating habits

Cuckoo wasps are a common sight in gardens, where they hover in search of wasp nests and a meal of floral nectar.

Life Cycle

The female cuckoo wasp will deposit an egg adjacent to the host species’ egg if she discovers the eggs or the nest of a compatible species, such as the Mud-dauber Wasp. The egg of the cuckoo wasp hatches before that of the Mud-dauber, and its larva consumes the food reserves intended for the Mud-young. Dauber’s Some cuckoo wasps have larvae that wait for the host insect to hatch and feed before attacking and destroying the newly hatched larvae. When the female cuckoo wasp intrudes on a Mud-nest, dauber’s, she coils herself into a ball and protects herself with armour plates.

Behavioural ecology

The most common species belong to the largest subfamily, the Chrysidinae. They are kleptoparasites that lay their eggs in the nests of their hosts, where the larvae consume the host’s egg or larva while it is still young and then the food provided by the host for its juvenile. When threatened by a possible host, chrysalises can curl into a defensive ball (called “volvation”) like a pill bug, setting them apart from members of other subfamilies. Parasitoids of sawflies or walking sticks, the members of the other subfamilies cannot roll up into a ball.

The chrysidids I’ve seen have all been solitary. They are most active during the summer’s warmest, driest months and are most at home in the subtropics and the Mediterranean. They prefer arid climates and sandy soils; each species lives in a very specific form of microhabitat, such as bare earth or dead wood with other solitary wasps’ nest holes—some species frequent flowers from the Apiaceae, Asteraceae and Euphorbiaceae families.