We usually think of wasps as little flying jerks, but Tom Saunders, a Ph.D. student in Auckland, New Zealand, is reaching into Harry Potter canon to redeem the insect’s image. He named a newly described species of non-stinging wasp Lusius malfoyi after Lucius Malfoy to help draw attention to all the good things wasps do, like pollinate crops and kill pests.
Just as Lucius Malfoy eventually redeemed his scumbag image in the Harry Potter series, Saunders hopes the wasp can gain some cool points back when people realize how beneficial it is.
“People see wasps as villains, as the ‘bad guys,’ but the truth is that the vast majority of wasp species are either neutral or beneficial, from a human standpoint,” he told CNN on Tuesday.
“Just as Lucius Malfoy is pardoned after separating from Voldemort’s allies, I’m asking people to pardon wasps in order to restore their reputation as interesting, important creatures.”
Saunders compares the reputation of wasps to that of Lucius Malfoy, the man who first revealed himself to the world as a total dick after opening the Chamber of Secrets, unleashing the basilisk. Despite being a total classist jerk throughout basically the whole Harry Potter series, getting Dumbledore kicked out of Hogwarts, and joining Voldemort’s army of followers, Lucius Malfoy eventually redeemed himself by renouncing Voldemort and saving his family.
By comparing Malfoy to wasps, Saunders makes a pretty compelling case. Yes, some species of wasps sting people, and it really freaking hurts. But many of them pollinate agriculturally valuable crops, and many are parasitoids. This latter type, which uses other animals as part of its life cycle, is particularly strange: in many cases, this means that the wasp lays its eggs into another insect. When the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae devour the host. It’s gross, but it’s also super beneficial for humans. In one particular case, a wasp species’ parasitoid habit has led to a significant decline of the kudzu bug, an invasive pest species that has devastated soybean crops in the southeast United States.
Even though Lucius Malfoy is still a coward underneath all of his bravado, Saunders hopes that the Lusius malfoyi wasp can help the world realize they’re not totally terrible. He’s currently researching the possibility of introducing a parasitoid wasp to help control the brown marmorated stink bug, an agricultural pest that New Zealand kiwi farmers are very worried about.
“The stink bug has recently been classified as a top environmental threat by the Ministry for Primary Industries and real effort is being made to keep it out of the country,” says Saunders in a press release. “Where it has spread, in places like Europe and North America, it is causing real destruction and economic cost.”