Tapani Hopkins

I study tropical parasitoid wasps at my home in Kållby (western Finland) and at the Zoological Museum of the University of Turku. This involves over 100 000 wasps I collected in Uganda (get in touch if you want to study them!), and wondering how there can be so extraordinarily many species on our planet.

Whenever I’m at the university, you’ll find me on the indoors balcony of the museum. Look for vast piles of tropical insect boxes etc and you’ll find me buried somewhere underneath them. You can also contact me by email and follow what I’m doing in the blog.

@tapani_hopkins   0000-0002-2256-0098    Google Scholar

What are parasitoid wasps?

Wasp on insect trap in Uganda

The Darwin wasps (Ichneumonidae) are perhaps the most diverse animal family on earth: they are everywhere from Greenland to New Zealand, there may be over 100 000 species, wherever you go they’ll be there in large numbers..

..yet most people have never heard of them.

The short version is that they look like wasps but aren’t. The longer version involves telling the fascinating tale of how they live:

  • The female finds a caterpillar (or spider), paralyses it, and lays an egg inside it. Then she leaves and the caterpillar wakes up.
  • The egg hatches and starts eating the caterpillar. While the caterpillar is still alive.
  • Eventually the young larva eats the vital parts of the caterpillar, killing it. He/she bursts out through the skin, pupates, and flies off in search of new caterpillars.

That’s the basic gruesome story; variations include species that cling to the outside of spiders, hyperparasitoid species that feed on other parasitoid wasps.. Unsurprisingly, the ichneumonids have a tremendous regulatory effect on other species and are important top predators.

For the even longer version, transfer to Wikipedia. You’ll see some Ugandan photos in the Finnish version..

Funding

It can be expensive to study wasps (and other interesting stuff) instead of working for a living. The following deserve my gratitude for funding my research!

  Finnish Cultural Foundation

  Kone Foundation

Waldemar von Frenckell foundation

  Oskar Öflunds Stiftelse sr

  Societas Entomologica Helsingforsiensis

Who am I?

The relevant details in a nutshell:

  • Born in Hartlepool in 1986. Lived much of my life in Kronoby and now live in Kållby.
  • Native languages English and Finnish, Swedish near native level.
  • Education:
    • PhD biology, University of Turku
    • MSc Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Helsinki
    • BSc (hons) Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
    • BSc Theoretical Physics, University of Helsinki

The irrelevant details include a tendency to read large numbers of books, an aptitude for hen farming, and a distinct lack of aptitude for playing the bagpipes.

My wife has the real job in the family, and my children keep me busy when not doing research.