• chemical insignificance;
  • chemical mimicry;
  • Chrysididae;
  • Crabronidae;
  • cuticular hydrocarbons;
  • Hymenoptera;
  • nest hydrocarbons;
  • species recognition


Insect cuticular hydrocarbons (CHC) play a role as semiochemicals in many host–parasite systems and chemical mimicry or camouflage is a well-known mechanism of parasites to evade detection by the host. The cuckoo wasp Hedychrum rutilans (Hymenoptera, Chrysididae) is a parasitoid of larvae of the European beewolf Philanthus triangulum (Hymenoptera, Crabronidae). Females chemically mimic the cuticular hydrocarbons of their hosts to avoid detection and countermeasures when entering the host nest for oviposition. Here we report on a possible second mechanism of the chrysidid wasp H. rutilans to evade detection: the amount of CHC/mm2 of cuticle is only approximately one-fifth compared to its beewolf host. Furthermore, we show that surprisingly large amounts of CHC of beewolf females can be found on the walls of the underground nest. Potentially, these hydrocarbons might constitute a background odor against which the cuckoo wasps or their chemical traces have to be perceived by the beewolf. The reduction in the amount of CHC of the cuckoo wasps might be equivalent to a dilution of recognition cues, especially against the background odor of the nest walls, and might provide a means to escape detection within the nest due to “chemical insignificance”.