Nasonia vitripennis. This insect parasitizes the Sarcophaga (flesh fly) pupae. Females usually lay 30–50 eggs in the pupae, which provide food for the Nasonia larvae when they hatch. Once the larvae become pupae, they can be sexed, thus ensuring virgin females for experimental crosses. Adults will emerge in approximately fourteen days; however, Nasonia provide flexible study time because they can be halted at any stage of development by refrigeration. Nasonia are also easy to handle in the lab because they don’t sting or bite, and they are not prone to flying away without warning. Each culture, supplied in the pupal stage in infected Sarcophaga hosts, is enough for 35 students.
Commonly called the jewel wasp, Nasonia are small wasps that do not sting or bite. You can use Nasonia to teach topics covering:
• Scientific Method and Techniques
• Selective Advantage
Nasonia are better and more interesting study subjects for several reasons:
• Mutants are observable without dissecting scopes
• They are easily sexed in either the pupal (thus ensuring virgin females) or adult stage
• They tend not to fly like Drosophila
• You can arrest their life cycle using refrigeration to work around your class schedule
• Haploid males make all crosses appear sex-linked
• They exhibit ritualistic courtship and mating behaviors
• They have a parasitic life cycle
• They are easy to culture and maintain
You can study the world of Nasonia through the Nasonia Project, a comprehensive set of inquiry-based lab activities available only from WARD’S.