A biologist in New Zealand wants to clean up the image of wasps — by naming one after Lucius Malfoy, one of Harry Potter’s arch-enemies in the fantasy fiction series. Lusius malfoyi, the newly discovered species of non-stinging wasp, is one of an estimated 3,000 of the insects found in New Zealand.
Tom Saunders, a researcher from the University of Auckland, who read his first Harry Potter book at age 10, was inspired to name it after one of the chief villains in the series.
“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. 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,” he told CNN.
Lucius, the father of Draco Malfoy, is depicted by J.K. Rowling as an evil figure, responsible for opening the Chamber of Secrets holding the deadly Basilisk captive in the second book in the series.
He goes on to become one of the evil Lord Voldemort’s chief acolytes, after actively trying to remove Albus Dumbledore from his post as the headmaster of Hogwarts school. But in the final installment, Malfoy redeems himself by defecting from Voldemort’s Army in order to save his own family, and is pardoned for his crimes.
With support from the Centre for Biodiversity and Biosecurity at the University of Auckland, Saunders wants to draw attention to species of insects that New Zealand may be slowly losing.
“There are more species of parasitoid wasps than fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals combined. They are used in New Zealand and around the world to control pests that would otherwise require far more money and pesticides to combat,” he said.
“I was inspired to name this species in a way that would hopefully spark a larger conversation about the relationship that humans have with the millions of species that share the planet with us.”
Of the 30,000 species of wasps currently known to mankind, a majority are non-stinging solitary creatures that do more good than harm by controlling pest populations, according to National Geographic. Native parasitoid wasps, like the one discovered by Saunders, do not sting or live in colonies.
“The big problem is lack of data,” Saunders said in a statement. “We do not know what species we have, how many there might be or what their host species are, so they can’t be included in conservation planning. If we don’t put more resources into their taxonomy, we could be in danger of losing wasp species without even knowing it.”
Saunders said he hopes Lusius malfoyi emerges as the “poster child” for such little-known creatures.