A consortium of 157 scientists led by biologist John Werren, of the University of Rochester, N.Y., recently completed the sequencing of three parasitic wasp species in the genus Nasonia.
"If it weren't for parasitoids and other natural enemies, we would be knee-deep in pest insects," Werren said.
Nasonia wasp females seek out specific insects, such as ticks or mite hosts, inject venom and then lay their eggs, with the young wasps emerging to eat the host insect, Werren wrote this month in the journal Science.
"Parasitic wasps attack and kill pest insects, but many of them are smaller than the head of a pin, so people don't notice them or know of their role in keeping pest numbers down," Werren said.
Knowledge of the wasps' genome could aid pest control by providing information about which insects a parasitoid will attack and identification of parasitoid venoms.