An Oregon State University study has identified four new species of parasitic, cockroach-killing ensign wasps that became encased in tree resin 25 million years ago and were preserved as the resin fossilized into amber.
“Some species of ensign wasps have even been used to control cockroaches in buildings,” OSU researcher George Poinar Jr. said. “The wasps sometimes are called the harbingers of cockroaches — if you see ensign wasps you know there are at least a few cockroaches around. Our study shows these wasps were around some 20 or 30 million years ago, with probably the same behavioral patterns regarding cockroaches.”
Ensign wasps, of the Hymenoptera order and scientifically known as Evaniidae, earned their common name because their abdomen resembles a flag; an ensign is a large flag on a ship, usually flown at the stern or rear of the vessel, that indicates the ship’s nationality.