The Dementor Wasp Is Named After Harry Potter’s Dementors

A new species of wasp is named after the soul-sucking dementors from the Harry Potter books. The dementor wasp, or Ampulex dementor, belongs to the family of cockroach wasps (Ampulicidae). These wasps sting cockroaches in order to paralyze them, so their larvae can feed on the living cockroaches.

The Dementors from Harry Potter are fictional creatures that deliver a Dementor’s Kiss in order to consume a person’s soul. The victim is left in an irreversible vegetative state, a fate considered worse than death.

The dementor wasp’s sting resembles the Dementor’s Kiss, inhibiting certain behaviors of the cockroach, so it doesn’t flee. The cockroach is partly paralyzed and doesn’t resist when the dementor wasp pulls it by its antennae. Just like with the victim of the fictional Dementor, the cockroach’s free will is permanently gone. Although it’s alive, its body is just a non-responding, empty shell.

Even more interesting is the way the dementor wasp was named. The Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin asked visitors of the museum to vote on a name. They could choose from four options and in my opinion they chose the coolest. The museum named the wasp through voting in order to engage visitors in biodiversity research. I think they did a great job.

dementor wasp
Ampulex dementor – Photo by Bernard Schurian

However, this is not the first time an animal is named after a fictional character. The jumping spider Bagheera kiplingi is named after the vegetarian black panther Bagheera from Jungle Book, because the spider, like Bagheera, has a mostly herbivorous diet, which is unique for a spider. There is also an arachnid named Draculoides bramstokeri, a name I assume doesn’t require further explanation. Other recognizable examples include the spider Hortipes terminator, the fish Otocinclus batmani, the hexapod Gollumjapyx smeagol, the wasp Polemistus chewbacca, the genus of mites Darthvaderum and, while we’re on a Star Wars spree anyway, the trilobite Han solo.

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