Awesome Animal Fact:
Did you know the jewel wasp has a habit of turning cockroaches into zombies? The jewel wasp, which lives in Africa and Asia, has beautiful metallic blue and green colors, but many people find its zombification of cockroaches to be rather macabre. I find it to be totally awesome.
So, how exactly does the wasp do this? It all starts with the wasp looking for a host cockroach to lay an egg on. Jewel wasps are specifically adapted to using cockroaches, so no other insect will be suitable. When the wasp comes upon a nice, juicy cockroach, it attacks the much larger insect and injects a neurotoxin. This substance blocks the release of a certain chemical in the cockroach's ganglia (its brain) that normally gives the cockroach the motivation to run away and escape. The neurotoxin kicks in quickly. The roach remains fully functional except that it has lost its free will. For some reason, it follows the wasp wherever the wasp leads it.
As you can probably guess, the wasp walks to its nest, and the cockroach follows it there, unable to do otherwise. Once in the nest, the wasp lays a single egg on the roach's body. Then it goes out to collect a bunch of pebbles to build a barrier around the cockroach to protect the egg. After that, it goes out to search for another cockroach to zombify.
The egg hatches after two days, and the wasp larva feeds on the cockroach's body. Amazingly, the larva first feeds on all the body parts and fluids that the roach can still stay alive without. Only when all the organs and "blood" (called hemolymph) are gone will the wasp larva consume the roach's nervous system, finally killing it.
It's not over yet, though. The wasp larva lines the inside if the cockroach body with an antimicrobial secretion. For the next month, the larva remains inside the hollowed-out body as it transforms into an adult wasp. Finally, the adult wasp bursts out of the "cocoon" (alien-style) and begins the entire life cycle all over again.
Below is a jewel wasp attacking a cockroach.
- Jewel wasp with cockroach - DepositPhotos
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