The biological activity of venom from Pimpla turionellae L. (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) was examined in vivo toward larvae and pupae of Galleride mellonella L. (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), and in vitro toward bacterial and fungal cultures, as well as cultured insect cells. Pupae of G. mellonella were far more susceptible to the venom than larvae. At low doses of venom [0.1 venom reservoir equivalents (VRE)], pupal abdominal mobility was inhibited within 30 min, and by 24 h, all pupae injected with venom concentrations > 0.5 VRE were completely paralyzed. These same doses of venom resulted in an inhibition of adult emergence. Host larvae were far less sensitive to wasp venom as evidenced by all venom injected larvae remaining responsive to mechanical stimulation by 1 h post injection, even at concentrations equivalent to 1 venom reservoir. Eventually (>2 h at 25 degrees C), venom-injected larvae become immobile, then flaccid, and all died within 24 h post-injection. At lower concentrations of wasp venom, the onset of paralysis was delayed by comparison to that evoked by 1 VRE, and few host larvae were able to pupate. Development of host larvae to adult emergence was also reduced in a dose-dependent manner, with eclosion completely prevented at high concentrations (>0.5 VRE) of venom. Venom doses <0.5 VRE did not appear to induce paralysis or alter larval development. When venom was incubated with bacterial or fungal cultures, no antimicrobial activity was detected. However, wasp venom was found to be cytotoxic and cytolytic to cultured cells derived from the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni Hubner (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) and the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti (L.) (Diptera: Culcidae). Though both cell types displayed similar susceptibility in terms of IC(50)s, the lepidopteran cells responded much more rapidly with regard to the onset of morphological changes and the timing of cell death. A possible mode of action for the venom is discussed.