Wasp vs. Cockroach

I’ve seen a lot of nature documentaries. But the one story that still horrifies me more than any other involves a wasp that stings its victim, paralyzing it. And then the wasp lays eggs on the victim, before burying it underground. The victim remains unable to move, and when the larvae emerge they eat the paralyzed victim (which is still alive).

I shudder every time I think about it. As it turns out, there’s more going on between the wasp, its prey, and the larvae.

I swe+-*956+-*ar, this week is the week of amazing Nature essays it seems. I’m coming across a ton of articles that I find just mind-blowing.

As much as I wanted to avoid it, I couldn’t turn away from The Epic, Absurdly Complex Battle between a Zombie Maker and Its Victim, by Kenneth C. Catania.

One aspect of this story I wasn’t expecting: the jewel wasp eats its way out, emerging only when it reaches maturity. I’m going to step away to shudder violently for a few moments.

What I wasn’t aware of: the wasp stings the cockroach multiple times, each sting having a very specialized function/effect.

Everyone who studies the jewel wasp knows it stings the roach twice – once in the first thoracic ganglion to paralyze the front legs and once in the brain to zombify the roach.

In addition to these stings, there’s apparently a third sting that causes the cockroach to move its leg (allowing the wasp to probe for the ideal location to glue its egg).

The degree of specialization here is really difficult to comprehend. And on top of all this, it seems that the cockroach has a decent, fighting chance… despite what previously seemed to me like certain doom.

I still have a hard time with this particular form of predation. But the added details make it all the more gruesome, and all the more fascinating.

Wasp Nest Battle
Bathroom Thunderdome: Felix vs. Wasp (and Moths)

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