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A cleptoparasite or kleptoparasite (literally, parasite by theft) is an animal that takes prey or other food from another that has caught, collected, or otherwise prepared the food, including stored food (as in the case of cuckoo bees, which lay their eggs on the pollen masses made by other bees). The term is also used to describe the stealing of nest material or other inanimate objects from one animal by another.

The cleptoparasite operates either by obtaining prey or other objects that it could not obtain itself, or by saving the time and effort required to obtain it. However, the cleptoparasite may run the risk of injury from the victim if the latter is able to defend its prey.

Cleptoparasitism may be intraspecific (the parasite is the same species as the victim) or interspecific (the parasite is a different species). In the latter case, the parasites are commonly close relatives of the organisms they parasitize ("Emery's Rule").

Bees and wasps[]

There are many different lineages of cuckoo bees, all of which lay their eggs in the nest cells of other bees within the same family.[1]

Bees and their parasites[1]
Host genus Parasite genus
Bombus Psithyrus
Anthophora Melecta
Amegilla Thyreus
Creightonella Coelioxys

The cuckoo wasps include the family Chrysididae.[2] Many species of Chrisidid lay their eggs in the nests of potter and mud dauber wasps; other wasps parasitise related species, as for example Polistes sulcifer which parasitises Polistes dominula.[3][4] These insects are sometimes referred to as kleptoparasites;[1] other terms used (not exact synonyms) are inquiline and brood parasite.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Advances in the Study of Behavior. Academic Press (30 January 2005).
  2. Family Chrysididae - Cuckoo Wasps. BugGuide. Retrieved on 18 February 2015.
  3. Dapporto L, Cervo R, Sledge MF, Turillazzi S (2004) "Rank integration in dominance hierarchies of host colonies by the paper wasp social parasite Polistes sulcifer (Hymenoptera, Vespidae)". J Insect Physiol 50 :217–223
  4. Ortolani, I.; Cervo, R. (2009). "Coevolution of daily activity timing in a host-parasite system". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 96 (2): 399–405. Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print. 
  5. Erler, S.; Lattorff, H. M. G. (2010). "The degree of parasitism of the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) by cuckoo bumblebees (Bombus (Psithyrus) vestalis)". Insectes Sociaux 57 (4): 371–377. Template:Hide in printTemplate:Only in print. This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).