This remarkable photograph of the parasitoid wasp Praon volucre emerging from its cocoon inside an aphid was taken by Nika Eftekhari, a student on the MSc Horticulture - Crop Production programme at Writtle College.
Nika is investigating biological pest control on greenhouse grown chilli peppers, a crop which continues to create interest amongst growers in the UK.
The current crop trials work being conducted in the research glasshouse at Writtle College features over 40 cultivars of chilli peppers all provided by Tozer Seeds, the UK’s main breeder and supplier of chilli peppers.
Technical consultant Dr Richard Binks says that Tozer are continually striving to develop new chilli varieties ensuring that the business remains the market leader in this seed category. The Tozer trials at Writtle College also contain a range of speciality tomatoes and sweet peppers, which are from Tozer’s own breeding programme as well as from their marketing partners.
Nika is one of 12 MSc Horticulture students currently undertaking dissertation work; other students are involved in projects on a diverse range of crops from potatoes to tropical fruits.
The 26-year-old from Iran said: “I am really glad to have a chance of doing my dissertation in the interesting subject of aphids’ biological control on the novel pepper cultivars provided by Tozer company, one of the biggest seed providers in the UK.
“I am really proud of being able to capture the amazing moment of Praon volcure emergence from the mummified aphid after spending a lot of hours in the glasshouse.
“During the trial I had a great opportunity to attain in-depth knowledge and skill of biological control concepts in a practical environment.”
Simon Hart, Postgraduate Lecturer of Horticulture at Writtle College, said: "Although these wasps are common, the adults are rarely seen, and to capture a clear image of one actually emerging from pupation is quite an achievement."
For further information about full and part time opportunities in postgraduate Horticulture at Writtle College contact course scheme manager John Cullum (firstname.lastname@example.org or 01245 424200).