There are many parasitic insects in nature that affect humans, other mammals, other insects, and in some cases, all three. The most abundant group of parasitic insects on earth are parasitic wasps. In fact, wasps may be the most species-rich insects on the planet due to the massive amount of parasitic wasps that exist but have yet to be documented in detail. Parasitic wasps infect several insect species, and the manner in which these infections progress is always brutal for the insect victims. One of the most well known parasitic wasp species is the jewel wasp, which attacks and parasitizes cockroaches. Jewel wasps lay their eggs on the bodies of cockroaches. In order to prevent a cockroach from attempting to remove eggs from its body, the wasp literally stings the cockroaches’ brain. This sting to the brain causes the cockroach to become a zombie, as the scientific term for this state is “zombification.” Once a cockroach is zombified, it no longer seems concerned with the wasp eggs on its back. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the zombified cockroach alive. Ever since this process was discovered, researchers assumed that cockroaches were defenseless against attacks from jewel wasps, but now researchers know that this is not the case. As it turns out, cockroaches attempt to fight off jewel wasps by using their legs to deliver kicks to their parasitic enemy.
According to professor Ken Catania, cockroaches make an effort to combat jewel wasps with a series of different fighting styles, one of which Catania calls the “en garde” position. This position has a roach extending its sensory antenna in order to make contact with an attacking wasp’s body. This allows the roach to determine where the wasp’s weak points are located so that it can aim its kicks properly. This method of combat is effective at fending off jewel wasps 63 percent of the time. Some cockroaches even follow up their kicks with bites to the wasp’s body. Sadly, younger cockroaches almost always succumb to their wasp attackers on account of their inadequate size. Researchers gathered this information by slowing down video footage of roaches fighting jewel wasps.
Do you believe that only the most aggressive cockroaches can survive potentially deadly wasp encounters based on the above described research?