The wicked ways of the emerald cockroach wasp

The emerald cockroach wasp is named after what it eats, and this cruel character feeds on cockroaches during its first few weeks of life. Cockroaches are unlikely to be your favourite animal but you might feel sorry for them when you hear about what they are subjected to by this jewelled wasp.

The female wasp ambushes an unfortunate cockroach and delivers a stupefying sting to subdue is prey. The wasp then uses the antenna of the now docile victim as a lead to drag it to a suitable hiding place. Horrifyingly, the wasp buries the cockroach alive in an underground prison and attaches an egg to the roach’s leg. As the egg hatches, the developing larva burrows into the exosekleton to feast on the flesh of the living cockroach leaving the brain intact to keep the hapless host alive as long as possible.

A living body is a hygienic place to protect vulnerable young from bacteria and as wasps can’t bear live young as mammals do, the cockroach acts as an involuntary surrogate. As cruel as it sounds, it’s actually a clever strategy that these wasps have developed to ensure the safety of their precious young. Once all the flesh has been devoured, the larva spins a cocoon inside the abdomen of the roach and emerges after six weeks as fully grown wasp, ready to start the cycle again.

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