In the garden: Flowers
Worldwide, wherever moths and butterflies are common
Small wasps with narrow waists, long antennae, and ant-like heads, usually less than ½ inch (1.2cm) long, with a long black ovipositor extending from their rear ends. Black is the apparent color at first glance, but many species have orange or reddish abdomens. Braconid wasps do not sting.
Adults lay eggs on or in soft-bodied caterpillars including cabbage worms, tomato hornworms, and other garden pests. They are attracted by the smell of caterpillars munching on plant leaves. The braconid larvae feed inside their living hosts, weakening or killing them. A female braconid wasp can lay up to 200 eggs a day in warm summer weather.
Food and Habitat:
Flower nectar and pollen are major energy sources for braconid wasps. Flowers with small florets, including most herbs and carrot family cousins, are ideal for these small, fast-moving wasps. Braconids overwinter within the pupae or cocoons of the same pests they attack during the summer.
When you see a caterpillar bearing rice-like cocoons, allow it to feed until the tips of the cocoons open and a new generation of braconid wasps emerges. Leaving a few broccoli stalks standing through winter can provide shelter for braconid species that attack cabbage worms.