Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Death To Roaches

This week in particular, I have reason not to like roaches. So I was particularly charmed by this article on parasitic wasps that a commenter pointed to.

Some people seem to think this is a sign of a cruel God, or no God at all. But from where I sit, the roaches had it coming to them. (And as a habitual roach smasher, I obviously don't have any issue with roach death and suffereing -- though in all honestly I doubt a roach experiences much of either. Of course, I tend to take it to wasps too...) Here are some highlights, though for the sake of any readers who may be eating I haven't pulled in any of the pictures. Click through to see the full glory of it all.

As an adult, Ampulex compressa seems like your normal wasp, buzzing about and mating. But things get weird when it's time for a female to lay an egg. She finds a cockroach to make her egg's host, and proceeds to deliver two precise stings. The first she delivers to the roach's mid-section, causing its front legs buckle. The brief paralysis caused by the first sting gives the wasp the luxury of time to deliver a more precise sting to the head.

The wasp slips her stinger through the roach's exoskeleton and directly into its brain. She apparently use ssensors along the sides of the stinger to guide it through the brain, a bit like a surgeon snaking his way to an appendix with a laparoscope. She continues to probe the roach's brain until she reaches one particular spot that appears to control the escape reflex. She injects a second venom that influences these neurons in such a way that the escape reflex disappears.

From the outside, the effect is surreal. The wasp does not paralyze the cockroach. In fact, the roach is able to lift up its front legs again and walk. But now it cannot move of its own accord. The wasp takes hold of one of the roach's antennae and leads it--in the words of Israeli scientists who study Ampulex--like a dog on a leash.

The zombie roach crawls where its master leads, which turns out to be the wasp's burrow. The roach creeps obediently into the burrow and sits there quietly, while the wasp plugs up the burrow with pebbles. Now the wasp turns to the roach once more and lays an egg on its underside. The roach does not resist. The egg hatches, and the larva chews a hole in the side of the roach. In it goes.

The larva grows inside the roach, devouring the organs of its host, for about eight days. It is then ready to weave itself a cocoon--which it makes within the roach as well. After four more weeks, the wasp grows to an adult. It breaks out of its cocoon, and out of the roach as well. Seeing a full-grown wasp crawl out of a roach suddenly makes those Alien movies look pretty derivative.

4 comments:

drunkenferret said...

Yay! Death! *stomps on random roach*

MrsDarwin said...

Do your stomping on roaches here, babe, 'cause I don't want to even get close enough to kill them.

Dorian Speed said...

I learned yesterday that, if you flush a live spider down the toilet, he will curl up into a little ball and evade the flusheration until he can properly time his escape.

Fortunately, I am not a primary source for this information. Still not what I had hoped would happen to the big ugly spider. I am guessing the vacuum cleaner doesn't thwart them, either.

Dymphna said...

I like spiders but beasie that kills roaches is alright with me.