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Scientists name parasitic wasp after COVID-19

The researchers studied the wasp during coronavirus quarantine times.

Researchers discovered this speices of parasitic Darwin wasp during quarantine and named it Stethantyx covida.
Andrey I. Khalaim

The naming of new species gives scientists an opportunity to honor people (Neopalpa donaldtrumpi); fictional characters (Harryplax severus); and even social media platforms (Troglomyces twitteri). A newly discovered species of parasitoid wasp bears a nod to a global pandemic.

Scientists Andrey Khalaim and Enrique Ruíz Cancino with the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas (UAT) in Mexico published descriptions of five new species of Darwin wasps in the journal ZooKeys on Wednesday. Among them is the tiny "Stethantyx covida" wasp, which the researchers investigated during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic

The "covida" part of the wasp's name is a reference to the disease COVID-19, which has been responsible for over a million deaths worldwide. 

"We thought it was a good idea to remember this extraordinary year through the name of one remarkable species of Darwin wasp found in seven Mexican states (including Tamaulipas, where the UAT campus is located) and also Guatemala," the researchers said in a statement from journal publisher Pensoft on Thursday.

Darwin wasps are parasitoid insects that usually lay eggs in or on a host like a butterfly larva or spider eggs, or even a living spider.

The Darwin wasp family is formally known as Ichneumonidae, but it became connected to naturalist Charles Darwin through a letter he wrote to botanist Asa Gray in 1860

"I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice," Darwin said.

The name of the new species fits in with this sentiment. It's a hard and sometimes cruel world out there.