The genus in which H. argyraphaga is situated contains wasps that seem to occupy quite a large region covering much of South America, stretching from Mexico to Southern Brazil. Specifically, of the Hymenoepimecis species known, H. argyraphaga has only been seen and documented in the Puntarenas Province of Costa Rica, as shown in the Brazilian map below (Eberhard, 2000). In addition, its close relative H. robertsae lives and attacks spiders of the Nephila clavipes species in Panama (Sobczack, 2012).

Image accredited to: ArquiWHAT

     Among the many organisms that also occupy the dense rainforests of Costa Rica and other parts of Brazil, one of the most easily recognizable insects are the army ants. Working in incredibly large packs, army ants consume almost any small creature that crosses their path, including spiders. Because of this, army ants can be viewed as competition to the H. argyraphaga wasp in utilizing spider species to their benefit. Other insect species may not compete with this wasp for use of the rain forests' spiders, but may still have similar eating habits. Beetles, moths, butterflies, and crickets are just a few of the other insects one may be able to view inhabiting the same areas as H. argyraphaga (Moon handbooks, 2008).


    Deep in the dense forests of Costa Rica ecological webs which interconnect all of its organisms can be intricate. Luckily, H. argyraphaga has become well-suited to its environment and has found a fitting niche specific to its needs. Looking at its classification, one can see it branched from the insects, which allowed it to develop the characteristic six-legged morphology due to activation of Ubx, a Hox gene responsible for the suppression of leg formation, setting it apart from its crustacean-like ancestors. Also, due to its ecdysozoan characteristics given from its Arthropoda descent, molting --which is necessary to allow continual growth-- in H. argyraphaga and all other insects occurs with the release of ecdysone (a neurohormone) from the prothoracic glands located in their brains. And for the chemically-enthused individuals reading, the chemical structure of this hormone is found below.

    Arguably the most important attribute of this wasp exists as its ability to fly. Not only does this allow it to travel swiftly, but also aids in its ability to parasitize the P. argyra. On the surface the wings of the insect may only be useful in terms of locomotion, but think again! H. argyraphaga is in fact an endothermic insect; as it flies with its strong wings, heat is generated, elevating its body temperature. Oddly enough, these insects have even been known to shiver in order to warm-up their flight motors aka wings. The typical Hymenoptera morphology is shown below.

 To complement the vast amounts of oxygen needed for flight in these insects, tracheal respiratory systems were brought about by evolution. These systems bring oxygen directly to the mitochondria found in the wing muscle cells through openings to the outside of the organisms called tracheoles. In addition to sensing their environment by mechanoreceptors found on their legs, H. argyraphaga uses chemoreceptors --most usually found on its antennae-- to get a better feel for its environment. Certain molecules bind to these receptors causing changes in membrane potential creating action potentials which leads to the wasp getting a better grasp as to where it is situated (Campbell et. al, 2008). In such a place as Costa Rica, the H. argyraphaga needs and utilizes every one of its adaptations to survive.

It's time to talk about the birds and the wasps...