This post would make suitable source material for a sci-fi movie or a Stephen King novel. Those of you with weak stomachs look away.
Some wasps lead a rather unsavory lifestyle.
Feeding your young is always a challenge, which these parasitic wasps solve by paralyzing a caterpillar, and laying their eggs in its living body. The larvae feed on the still living victim, then build these silken cocoons within which they pupate, to eventually emerge as wasps.
When it is time to emerge, they cut around the top of the cocoon with elegant precision, creating a tiny lid. It reminds me of Hercule Poirot preparing to eat his boiled egg.
When I tried to ID this specific wasp, BugGuide initially said “Unidentified parasitic Apocrita”, which seems a rather appropriate name for an insect which ends the life of its host apocryphally. But my wonderful friendly expert Brandon Woo said it was in the family Braconidae, and then Charley Eiseman updated the BugGuide ID, confirming this, and telling me it was in the sub-family Microgastrinae, more specifically in the genus Microplitis. The internet is a wonderful thing, generous experts at your fingertips.