Dangerous beauties: the world's tiniest insects
Scroll through our magnified specimen images and discover the miniature, ethereal world of chalcid wasps.
While beautiful to look at through a microscope, these tiny wasps are also killers of the most resourceful kind.
When we think of wasps we tend to imagine a yellow and black striped insect with a painful sting, but wasps are actually one of the most diverse groups of animals on earth.
Minute wasps called chalcids (pronounced 'kal-sids') are usually less than three millimetres long, smaller than a grain of rice. They come in a variety of glossy and metallic colours.
Less beautiful, however, is how they provide for their offspring. These parasitoid wasps lay their eggs inside other insects. When the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae devour the host insect alive, until they're ready to turn into adult wasps and leave. The host is doomed to die.
Their gruesome nature actually makes many chalcid wasps useful to us. As natural enemies of pest insects, hundreds of chalcid species have been used as biological control agents to protect crops and fight the spread of invasive species.
Help scientists learn about these extraordinary insects
The Museum has imaged 100,000 slides of tiny insects from the collection, including 6,286 containing chalcid wasps.
For the crowdsourcing project Miniature Lives Magnified, we are seeking digital volunteers to help transcribe important specimen information on the accompanying labels, to help unlock vital data for future scientific research.