Living Organism Care Guide: WOWBugs™
Living Care Information
commonly known as WOWBugs™
Quick Start Information
You may observe some dead adult WOWBugs™ in your culture when you receive it. This is normal. More adults will emerge over the next several days.
If you plan to start additional WOWBug™ cultures, you’ll need a supply of blowfly pupae. The pupae are shipped in a separate cup, are oblong in shape, and dark in color. Keep extra pupae in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them to start new cultures.
To produce additional cultures, consider purchasing our WOWBugs™ Culture Kit.
About the Organism
- Adult WOWBugs™ lay their eggs on a host organism, such as the pupae of the blowfly.
- The entire WOWBug™ life cycle takes 18 to 25 days.
- WOWBugs™ can parasitize successfully on more than 20 different insect species from 4 different orders.
- 95% of WOWBug™ offspring are female
- Male WOWBugs™ are blind and flightless.
- Domain: Eukarya
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Hymenoptera
- Family: Eulophidae
- Genus: Melittobia
- Species: digitata
WOWBugs™ (Melittobia digitata) are harmless, non-stinging parasitic wasps about the size of a fruit fly. They use many insects as hosts. In the classroom environment, WOWBugs™ can parasitize and reproduce successfully on blowfly pupae. We shipped your culture while the insects were in their pupal stage. Some adults may have emerged during transit. If most of the insects are still in the pupal stage, simply wait several days and adults will emerge. The adults live for only a few days and do not need to eat.
The organism can be housed in plastic rearing chambers or any other small containers. Label each container with the date the culture was set up. Before setting up cultures in rearing containers that have been previously used, disinfect the containers with alcohol or a diluted bleach solution.
You don’t need to feed adult WOWBugs™. Additional cultures can be set up by following the instructions below.
Maintaining and culturing
Start your first batch of cultures as soon as possible after receiving your WOWBugs™. Additional blowfly pupae can be ordered online.
If you’re delayed in starting your cultures, keep the adults in a cool (not refrigerated) location to lower their metabolism. When not in use, always store the blowfly pupae in a refrigerator to retard their development. Otherwise, they will develop quickly, and adult blowflies will emerge. The blowfly pupae will remain viable for several months if refrigerated.
When you’re ready to begin making new cultures, pick up and examine an individual puparium. One end should have an opening that allows for air circulation. The puparium surrounding this opening is usually thicker than at the opposite end. Damage to this end of the puparium will kill the pupa. Working on the opposite end, use your fingernails or a small knife to carefully remove the tip of the puparium to expose the pupa inside. Visually inspect the pupa. It should be whitish and appear to have a smooth texture. If it shows signs of advanced development or if fluid is leaking from it, discard the puparium and try another. Place 3 opened puparia in each rearing container.
Place a sheet of clean white paper on your work surface. Once your rearing containers are ready to receive the adult WOWBugs™, firmly tap the culture of on the work surface to cause the insects to drop to the bottom of the container. Quickly remove the lid from the culture and use the sorting brush to carefully transfer 8 to 10 adults to each new rearing chamber. Replace the lid on the original culture and on your new cultures.
Note: WOWBugs™ are negatively geotactic and can quickly crawl up the sides of the rearing chamber and escape. Escapees can easily be seen on the sheet of white paper and can be returned to the container using the sorting brush. Label or date your new cultures. Place them in a storage container and maintain them at room temperature. At normal room temperatures of 22 to 30° C (72 to 86° F), the entire WOWBug™ life cycle takes 18 to 25 days. Eggs hatch in 3 to 4 days, larvae feed for 7 to 10 days, and the pupation period lasts 4 to 7 days. During the pupation stage, pupae can be observed spilling from the blowfly puparium. This is a good time to observe the differences between males and females as they develop. Each successful culture should produce several hundred adults. New cultures should be set up approximately every 3 weeks or as soon as new adults begin to emerge in your established cultures.
Carolina provides living organisms for educational purposes only. As a general policy, we do not advocate the release of organisms into the environment. In some states, it is illegal to release organisms, even indigenous species, without a permit. The intention of these laws is to protect native wildlife and the environment.
We suggest that organisms be:
- Maintained in the classroom.
- Donated to another classroom or science department.
- Donated to a nature center or zoo.
- Disposed of humanely, as a last resort.
Place unwanted organisms in a sealed container and freeze for 48 hours. Dispose of the organisms in the regular solid waste. WowBugs™ are considered a parasite and should not be released under any circumstances.
No biosafety information applies for this organism.
What are the dark, pill-like things that I received?
These are puparia—cases that enclose fly pupae. After the larvae grow to full size, they stop feeding and become pupae themselves. They emerge as tiny wasps. The adult wasps should begin emerging about the time you receive your shipment.
I see the fly puparia, but I don’t have any WOWBugs™. What’s wrong?
We try to ship so that the insects are emerging as adults when you receive your order. However, this is dependent on temperature and conditions experienced during the shipping process. If they are exposed to temperatures below 22° C during shipment, their development will slow down.
I received my WOWBugs™, but there are just a few of them, and they are all dead.
Eggs are deposited on the surface of beans and hatch in 5 to 20 days, depending upon ambient temperature. The larva has chewing mouthparts and makes its way into the bean where it feeds and matures. Temperature strongly affects generation time: At room temperature, adults may require 7 weeks for emergence. In an incubator at 30° C, adults may emerge in 3 to 4 weeks. The adult stage is brief, lasting only 10 days to 2 weeks. The adults do not need food.
I see lots of insects, but they are just lying around on the bottom of the box. Are they dead?
Sometimes, just before the insects emerge from the pupa stage, they spill out of the fly puparia in large numbers. This is what you’re seeing. Give them a few days to complete the transformation into active adults.
Will adult flies emerge from the puparia?
This is unlikely. The blowfly pupae have been so heavily parasitized by WOWBugs™ larvae that they probably will be unable to emerge. If they do, you can kill them in a freezer.