Tinkerbella nana, a fairy wasp that lives as a parasite inside other insects’ eggs, is the world’s smallest insect. It measures only 0.139 millimeters long.
Dutch scientists recently filmed this parasitic wasp on high speed camera, showing that in the time it takes for the TV image to refresh, it beats its wings 14 times!
The world’s smallest insect is a parasitoid wasp called Dicopomorpha echmepterygis, which measures only 0.0005 inches (.139 millimeters) long, roughly the size of a single-celled paramecium. The wasp has two tiny antennae, a mouth, and no eyes, but it does have some neat tricks up its sleeve. It uses a symbiotic relationship with a fungus to survive and lays its eggs in the shells of other insects. This allows the offspring to mooch nutrients from the host egg, allowing it to grow to full size without spending its own energy.
This wasp has been spotted in a number of different habitats, from tropical forests to deserts. It also flies in windy conditions, which is why it has a wingspan of only one-seventh of an inch. Like other members of the genus Dicopomorpha, this wasp is an insect parasitoid that attacks the eggs of other insects. Because of this, the wasp is used for biological pest control in agriculture and horticulture.
Fairyflies have a lot of tricks up their tiny sleeves. First of all, they don’t have to use their eyes, as the iridescent wings of these tiny insects are almost as bright as the insect’s own body. They can also shrink their circulatory and respiratory systems, because they don’t need to carry a big blood supply around all the time. They can even ditch their wings completely, as some species do. This beetle, Scydosella Musawasensis, is able to fly without them thanks to its elongated body and oar-shaped wings that look something like a row of eyelashes and a feather.
These fairyflies are part of a family of chalcidoid wasps known as the Mymaridae, which are found in temperate and tropical regions all over the globe. They are so small, in fact, that many of them go unnoticed by us. However, they are all around us — we just don’t notice them because they’re so small! Fairyflies are just one of the many examples of extreme miniaturization that make insects so remarkable. And this is only the beginning, as scientists continue to uncover more of these insects’ secrets.
The world’s smallest insect is a fly called Euryplatea nanaknihali, a new species discovered in Thailand. This tiny fly measures just 0.4 millimeters in length. It is 15 times smaller than a housefly and five times smaller than a fruit fly. It was discovered by Brian Brown, a scientist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The fly is a member of the Phoridae family of flies, known for decapitating ants.
The ant-decapitating flies are incredibly strange and bizarre, with many looking more like queen termites than flies. The flies have grotesquely bloated soft abdomens, wingless and legless females that look more like ant larvae than adult flies, and small flightless shield-shaped forms such as E nanaknihali. The only other fly with a similar body shape is the minute parasitic genus Megapropodiphora, found in tropical forests of Africa and Asia.
Euryplatea nanaknihali is the smallest insect to be classified as a fly, and its tiny size makes it difficult for it to move. It has a smoky grey color and a pointed ovipositor, which it uses to lay its eggs in the heads and bodies of ants. Its closest relative, the African ant-decapitating fly E eidmanni, lives in the nests of ants Crematogaster impressa and feeds on the ants’ muscle tissue until they die. Euryplatea nanaknihali has yet to be tested on other insects, but it is likely that it behaves similarly.
Despite its tiny size, the insect can cause a painful bite when it is disturbed. The fly can also transmit harmful viruses, such as the rabies virus. However, the pygmy sorrel moth is even smaller than the fairy wasp and can also cause severe pain.
There are currently 120,000 known species of flies, with the smallest being the Euryplatea nanaknihali fly, discovered in Thailand. This tiny fly is a member of the Phoridae flies, and its closest relative is the African ant-decapitating fly E eidmanni. It lays its eggs in the head of an ant and feeds on the ants’ muscles until they die. Eventually, the ant’s head falls off and the fly pupates inside the dead ant’s body.
While most insects evoke outsized reactions from humans, like awe at a monarch butterfly or disgust at a scuttling cockroach, some insect species are genuinely tiny. These diminutive creatures are called fairyflies, and they can be found all over the world. The smallest fairyfly, Dicopomorpha echmepterygis, measures only 0.139 millimeters in length. That’s smaller than even some single-celled organisms.
While some fairyflies are parasites, others live on their own and feed on fungi. One of the smallest, Scydosella musawasensis, is not parasitic and lives on its own in damp locations. The tiny insect eats the spores of the fungus Basidiomycota and is about half the size of a human hair.
The tiniest spider in the world is another example of an insect that lives on its own and doesn’t need to rely on parasites for survival. The patu digua spider can only be seen with a microscope and grows to less than 1/3rd of a millimeter, or smaller than the head of a pin.
Scientists don’t know exactly how the tiny insect reaches such an incredible size, but they have a few ideas. They believe that the insect sheds nucleus in its nerve cells to help achieve its small size. This is similar to the way a swimmer trims his or her body to reach a record breaking speed on the track.
In addition to shedding nucleus, the tiny insect may use other tricks to shrink its body. For example, the females of this insect mate inside their host’s eggs. Each egg typically yields a female and one to three male parasitoids. This life history is similar to the trichogrammatid Prestwichia aquatica and the fig wasps in the family Agaonidae, which also exhibit sexual dimorphism and mate inside their host figs.
While the tiniest insect in the world is a fairyfly, there are many more insects that are equally fascinating. For example, the pygmy blue butterfly is one of the smallest insects in the world and can be found in forests around the globe. The butterfly’s name is inspired by its bluish-blue wings, which are reminiscent of the sky. The pygmy blue butterfly has also been known to flutter its wings in response to sound.
Miniaturization is one of the main trends in animal evolution. This process strongly determines the morphology, physiology and biology of animals. It is particularly important for insects, where the size of organs and cells has an enormous influence on their function. The smallest insects are extremely interesting due to the extraordinary reorganization of their organ systems and nervous system. However, it is not yet fully understood how the smallest insects cope with the difficulties caused by extreme reduction. The structure of the smallest insect has been studied using histological methods and 3D computer modeling. The results show that despite its small size the insect Megaphragma caribea still has a considerable level of structural complexity. The new species was found on leaves of Psidium guajava infested by Selenothrips rubrocinctus in Guadeloupe. This discovery greatly expands the range of host plants and Thysanoptera in which Megaphragma caribea can develop.
The smallest insect has only three Malpighian tubules, fewer than those of Anaphes or Trichogramma. In addition, the tracheal system is also much reduced, compared to large representatives of related groups. In addition, the sternites of the metasoma are weakly sclerotized and barely discernible. This distinguishes the insect from other trichogrammatids and most microinsects. In contrast, the sternites of the metasoma of the trichogrammatid Mengenilla chobauti are highly sclerotized and clearly distinguishable. In addition, the apical mesophragma of both species is deeply sunk into the body and reaches almost to the middle or even to the apex of the metasoma. Moreover, unlike other trichogrammatids, neither the heart nor the ovipositor are present in these two species.
During the last few years the genus Megaphragma has been the subject of intensive investigations. Unique features of their morphology have been discovered, such as the lysis of nuclei and cell bodies of neurons during late stages of pupal development and the absence of a heart. These characteristics make them important for the macrotaxonomy of the Chalcidoidea.
Recently, the trichogrammatid Dicopomorpha echmepterygis was named as the smallest insect in the world, displacing Megaphragma caribea from this position. However, recent research has shown that the latter has several distinctive features, making it a more suitable candidate for this title.