Made up of over 3000 known species, cuckoo wasps (Hymenoptera: Chrysididae) can be found throughout most of the world. Adults can be recognized by their green and/or blue coloration (some have red or gold) and the intricate pitting on their exoskeletons. Because of their sparkling appearance they’re sometimes also called jewel wasps, emerald wasps, ruby wasps, or gold wasps.
Female cuckoo wasps have stingers that are dedicated to egg-laying and their poison glands are greatly reduced, and as a result they cannot effectively sting. Instead many of these insects curl into defensive balls when they’re disturbed.
Females lay their eggs in the nests of other insects, allowing their young to exploit the food sources found within them. Some cuckoo wasp species are parasitoids and newly-hatched larvae devour the eggs and larvae of their hosts. Others are cleptoparasites, with the larvae feeding on the provisions hosts have stockpiled for their own young. Some cuckoo wasps engage in both behaviors for maximum gain. The common name for these insects comes from the food-stealing behavior the cleptoparasitic species share with many cuckoo birds (Cuculiformes: Cuculidae).