The Braconidae are a megadiverse and ecologically highly important group of insects. The vast majority of braconid wasps are parasitoids of other insects, usually attacking the egg or larval stages of their hosts. The ovipositor plays a crucial role in the assessment of the potential host and precise egg laying. We used lightand electron-microscopic techniques to investigate all inherent cuticular elements of the ovipositor (the female 9th abdominal tergum, two pairs of valvifers, and three pairs of valvulae) of the braconid Habrobracon hebetor (Say, 1836) in detail with respect to their morphological structure and microsculpture.
Based on serial sections, we reconstructed the terebra in 3D with all its inherent structures and the ligaments connecting it to the 2nd valvifers. We examined the exact position of the paired valvilli, which are bilateral concave structures that protrude into the egg canal. In H. hebetor, these structures putatively divert the egg ventrally between the 1st valvulae for oviposition. We discuss further mechanical and functional aspects of the ovipositor in order to increase the understanding of this putative key feature in the evolution of braconids and of parasitoid wasps in general.