If there were a horror movie set in the animal kingdom, a turquoise-green insect named the “crypt-keeper wasp” would likely play a starring role. A new study has found that this crafty, parasitic wasp can manipulate other parasitic wasps to finish an assigned task and then become its meal.
The amber-colored victims are known as “crypt gall wasps” (Bassettia pallida). They nest in tiny cavities called “crypts” on their host tree, which provides free nutrition throughout its development. Typically, when the adult wasps are ready to leave, they chew a hole through the trees’ woody tissue and make their way out. But for some gall wasps, things don’t go according to plan.
This ant weaves a nest out of tree leaves high up in the canopy. To build one, a group of workers forms live ant bridges to bring the leaves together, while another fetches larvae from an existing ant nest.
Worker ants hold these larvae in their jaws and squeeze them while moving along the leaf edges. On squeezing, the weaver ant larva produces a fine silk fibre that glues the leaves. As more and more leaves are pulled along, a lump of fresh green leaves lined with a white silk mat is formed.
Parasitic fig wasps of the genus Apocrypta lay their eggs inside unripe fruits of fig plants. Larvae that emerge from eggs of parasitic fig wasps feed on larvae of another species — the pollinating fig wasps. So, to ensure best nutrition and survival for its own eggs, a parasitic wasp female lays them near larvae of pollinating wasps already developing in the fig fruit.
To lay eggs inside, parasitic wasp females have to dig through the hard and woody skin of unripe figs several times in their lifespan. Evolution has gifted them with a long, flexible and slender egg-laying organ called the ovipositor, which they use to manage this feat. But there is more to an ovipositor that gives the wasps an edge…