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Find an Insect Like This? Don't Kill It – It's Killing Your Cockroaches

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If you see an ensign wasp in your house, it likely means cockroaches are also there.

Story originally published Jan. 2, 2014.

It’s that time of year when insects want to get out of the cold and into your house.

Most people aren’t big fans of sharing their space with these creepy-crawlers. But if you see one particular insect – you’re better off not grabbing the bug spray.

This story started with a phone call to my go-to insect expert: Wizzie Brown. She’s a program specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Office. We were talking about crickets and whether we were expecting herds of them this year like in years past, when I remembered I had another question:

“You know, I need to take a picture of these weird bugs that we have in my house," I said to Brown. "I think it’s a new species. I think that our bathroom has bred this new species of insect – it’s like half grasshopper but way smaller...” “Is it black?” Brown asked. “Yeah! And it can jump and it can fly a little," I replied. “You have cockroaches," Brown said.

The insects themselves aren't cockroaches but they kill baby cockroaches. They’re called ensign wasps, or Evaniidae.

“And so they will parasitize the egg case, lay their egg inside the egg case of the cockroach and their wasps will eat the developing cockroaches," Brown explained.

So ensign wasps are good bugs, like certain kinds of spiders. But while you don’t need to get rid of them, they probably won’t get rid of all of your cockroaches, so ensign wasps won't do all of the heavy lifting in the eternal battle against cockroaches. You didn't think it would be that easy, did you?

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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