Cotesia marginiventris

Geographic Range

Cotesia marginiventris populations can be located throughout South and Central America as well as lower North America. In warmer months, individuals can be found as far north as the state of Wisconsin. This species may also be found in Hawaii as it was brought in to act as a biological control agent against agricultural pests such as armyworms, African armyworms, lawn armyworms, and cabbageworms. (Ashley, 1986; Lai, 1988)


Cotesia marginiventris eggs and larval instars live inside of one of many possible invertebrate hosts, usually a noctuid moth, moving about all areas of the host body. An adult C. marginiventris is very adaptable, only requiring non-freezing temperatures, a sugar source, and a host to deposit parasitoid larvae into. Areas most likely to support populations of C. marginiventris include grasslands and forests within temperate and tropical zones. They often parasitize agricultural insect pests, and thus are frequently found in farm fields. (Jalali, et al., 1990; Turlings, et al., 2004)

Physical Description

Similar to related parasitoid wasps, eggs of C. marginiventris resemble grains of rice, appearing as clear elongated ovals. The larval stages change from translucent and white to opaque and brown as they grow and toughen. Adult wasps can be recognized by a black head and thorax accompanied by a tan abdomen. Additionally, the males and females share long segmented antennae while only the females bare an elongated ovipositor. Both males and females average 3 mm in length. (Boling and Pitre, 1970; Riddick, 2006)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes shaped differently
  • Average length
    3 mm
    0.12 in


In the wild, adult female Cotesia marginiventris will usually deposit one egg in each noctuid moth larval host. Within two days the egg hatches into the first larval instar. The larvae then molt twice inside the host before emerging, killing the host, and immediately spinning a cocoon of roughly 4 mm in length on whichever surface it lands. At roughly 13 days from the implantation of the egg, the adult emerges from the cocoon fully developed. Although reproductively active immediately, the average adult has roughly 1 week to reproduce before death. (Boling and Pitre, 1970)


In order to reproduce, males locate the females by following pheromone trails. Once a female is located, a male fans its wings to signal to the female that he is ready to mate. If the female does not jump away or click it's wings, then the male mounts the female. Most likely due to the disparity in the male/female ratio of Cotesia marginiventris, the male will attempt to mate multiple times, while the female mates once and rejects further attempts to mate. Currently, there are no known traits that influence mate preference. (Boling and Pitre, 1970)

The breeding season of Cotesia marginiventris varies depending on location, ceasing to occur when temperatures stay below 10 degrees Celcius. This usually limits the breeding season to spring and summer months. Cotesia marginiventris is a semelparous species, and females will only mate once within their short lifespans. Though not required for mating, intake of sugars from aphids or nectar may greatly increase the fecundity of females. Mated females may oviposit at several different locations but the eggs are all a result of a single mating. Females may lay an average of 150 eggs in laboratory conditions. The acts of reproduction and oviposition of Cotesia marginiventris occur during daylight hours. Cotesia marginiventris are sexually mature upon emerging from pupae as adults, which occurs at 12 or 13 days of age. (Johanowicz and Mitchell, 2000; Joyce, et al., 2009; Riddick, 2008; Sourakov and Mitchell, 2001)

  • Breeding interval
    Individual Cotesia marginiventris breed once yearly within their short lifespans.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season for Cotesia marginiventris is generally during spring and summer months, when temperatures are above 10 C.
  • Average eggs per season
    150 (when lab cultured)
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    13 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    12 days

As with most other parasitoid wasps, Cotesia marginiventris displays no parental investment. (Riddick, 2008)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female


Similar to many other semelparous organisms, C. marginiventris lives only shortly after completing reproduction. For this species, the entire process normally takes between 22 and 30 days. (Joyce, et al., 2009; Riddick, 2008)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    22 to 30 days


Cotesia marginiventris are solitary creatures that travel little in their larval forms, but are very mobile in their adult forms. Adults will fly from location to location in search of either a mate, a sugar source to feed on, or a host to lay eggs inside in the case of female C. marginiventris. (Butler, et al., 2009)

Home Range

Specific home range sizes for Cotesia marginiventris are currently unknown.

Communication and Perception

Male Cotesia marginiventris seek out mates by following the pheromone trails produced by females of the species. Additionally, females are believed to locate hosts by following trails of volatile chemicals that are produced by hosts as they feed. The attraction of these wasps to the volatiles produced by insects feeding on maize has been the focus of much scientific research. (Joyce, et al., 2009; Turlings, et al., 2004)

Food Habits

Adult C. marginiventris require a sugar source and are known to feed from the nectar of flowers as well as from the honeydew excretions of aphids. Female C. marginiventris lay eggs within an insect host, which will serve as nourishment for the developing larvae. As a generalist parasitoid, C. marginiventris larvae feed on the internal structures from a variety of insect larvae. Some of the species that are host to larvae include: black cutworms, celery loopers, common loopers, bean leaf-skeletonizers, corn earworms, tobacco budworms, spotted beet webworms, Hawaiian beet webworms, Leucania latiuscula, variegated cutworms, Plathypena scabra, armyworms, soybean loopers, Scotorythra caryopsis, cabbage loopers and several species of Spodoptera, including southern armyworms, beet armyworms, fall armyworms, Spodoptera ornithogalli, and Spodoptera praefica. (Boling and Pitre, 1970; Johanowicz and Mitchell, 2000)

  • Animal Foods
  • blood
  • body fluids
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • nectar


There are no known specific predators of Cotesia marginiventris. However, numerous birds as well as amphibians and other insects are known to opportunistically feed upon wasps. (Raw, 1997)

Ecosystem Roles

The most notable role of Cotesia marginiventris is the population control it provides for the numerous species it parasitizes. These parasitic wasps mostly parasitize moths of the Noctuidae family. Additionally, C. marginiventris are known to directly affect the populations of other parasitic wasps such as Microplitis croceipes and Cardiochiles nigriceps by interspecific competition between the larval phases of the parasites. When multiple wasp eggs are present within the same host, the egg that is laid first is usually the only one to successfully hatch and mature into an adult. Commonly parasitized species include: black cutworms (Agrotis ipsilon), celery loopers (Anagrapha falcifera), common loopers (Autographa precationis), bean leaf-skeletonizers (Autoplusia egena), corn earworms (Helicoverpa zea), tobacco budworms (Heliothis virescens), spotted beet webworms (Hymenia perspectalis), Hawaiian beet webworms (Hymenia recurvalis), Leucania latiuscula, variegated cutworms (Peridroma saucia), Plathypena scabra, armyworms (Pseudaletia unipuncta), soybean loopers (Pseudoplusia includens), Scotorythra caryopsis, southern armyworms (Spodoptera eridania), beet armyworms (Spodoptera exigua), fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda), Spodoptera ornithogalli, Spodoptera praefica, and cabbage loopers (Trichoplusia ni). (Boling and Pitre, 1970; De Moraes and Mescher, 2005; Johanowicz and Mitchell, 2000)

Species Used as Host

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Because of the nature of Cotesia marginiventris as a noctuid larval parasitoid, it has proven to be a great asset to thousands of farmers growing a wide variety of crops damaged by species of Noctuidae. Specifically, C. marginiventris has been shown to be most effective at controlling herbivore populations feeding on maize due to an attraction to a certain blend of volatile chemicals produced from larvae feeding on the corn. (D'Alessandro, et al., 2009; Lai, 1988)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

To date, there are no known economic issues caused by the presence of these parasitoid wasps. (Lai, 1988)

Conservation Status

Currently, they are no apparent risks to this species. It is also unlikely that the Cotesia marginiventris population will be at risk in the near future, due to interest in them as a biological control agent. (D'Alessandro, et al., 2009)

Other Comments

Cotesia marginiventris is also known by the name of Apanteles marginiventris (Tingle, et al., 2005)


Nicholas Stefanski (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Heidi Liere (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, John Marino (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Barry OConnor (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Rachelle Sterling (editor), Special Projects.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

induced ovulation

ovulation is stimulated by the act of copulation (does not occur spontaneously)


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms in a harmful way that doesn't cause immediate death


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


having more than one female as a mate at one time

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


Ashley, T. 1986. Geographical Distributions and Parasitization Levels for Parasitoids of the Fall Armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda. Florida Entomologist, 86/3: 516-524.

Boling, J., H. Pitre. 1970. Life History of Apanteles marginiventris With Descriptions of Immature Stages. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 43: 465-470.

Butler, C., N. Beckage, J. Trumble. 2009. Effects of Terrestrial Pollutants on Insect Parasitoids. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 28/6: 1111-1119.

D'Alessandro, M., V. Brunner, G. von Merey, T. Turlings. 2009. Strong Attraction of the Parasitoid Cotesia marginiventris Towards Minor Volatile Compounds of Maize. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 35/9: 999-1008.

De Moraes, C., M. Mescher. 2005. Intrinsic Competition Between Larval Parasitoids with Different Degrees of Host Specificity. Ecological Entomology, 30/5: 564-570.

Jalali, S., S. Singh, C. Ballal, P. Kumar. 1990. Response of Cotesia marginiventris (Cresson) (Hymenoptera:Braconidae) to Low Temperature in Relation to its Biotic Potential. Entomon, 15: 217-220.

Johanowicz, D., E. Mitchell. 2000. Effects of Sweet Alyssum Flowers on the Longevity of the Parasitoid Wasps Cotesia marginiventris (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) and Diadegma insulare (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae). Florida Entomologist, 83/1: 41-47.

Joyce, A., J. Bernal, S. Vinson, R. Lomeli-Flores. 2009. Influence of Adult Size on Mate Choice in the Solitary and Gregarious Parasitoids, Cotesia marginiventris and Cotesia flavipes. Journal of Insect Behavior, 22/1: 12-28.

Lai, P. 1988. Biological Control: A Positive Point of View. Hawaiian Entomological Society, 28: 179-190.

Raw, A. 1997. Avian Predation on Individual Neotropical Social Wasps (Hymenoptera, Vespidae) Outside Their Nests. Ornitologia Neotropical, 8: 89-92.

Riddick, E. 2006. Egg Load and Body Size of Lab-cultured Cotesia marginiventris. BioControl (Dordrecht), 51/5: 603-610.

Riddick, E. 2008. Sting Frequency and Progeny Production of Lab-cultured Cotesia marginiventris. BioControl (Dordrecht), 53/2: 295-302.

Sourakov, A., E. Mitchell. 2001. Effects of Cool Temperatures on Oviposition and Development of Cotesia marginiventris (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). Florida Entomologist, 84/2: 308-309.

Tingle, F., E. Mitchell, R. Heath. 2005. Mating and Oviposition by Cotesia (=*Apanteles*) marginiventris (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) In Presence of Synthetic Pheromone of Spodoptera fruiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Journal of Chemical Ecology, 15/7: 2045-2050.

Turlings, T., J. Tumlinson, F. Eller, W. Lewis. 2004. Larval-damaged Plants: Source of Volitle Synomines That Guide the Parasitoid Cotesia marginiventris to the Microhabitat of its Hosts.. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 58/1: 75-82.