The Eucharitid Wasp – Little punk with deceiving looks
Mother Nature has her own ways of providing food to each species present on earth. Indranil Bannerjee shares one such unique mechanism of survival in the insect world.
Eucharitid Wasps are probably the most fashionable parasitic wasp in the insect world with a perfect Mohawk tuft on its head, clever enough to camouflage itself in the ant colonies to survive and grow. Wasps from these Eucharitidae families specialize in attacking the ants through its various developmental stages, use them as hosts and finally survive on them.
The mother Eucharitid wasp lays her eggs on stipules of the leaves or the stems of the plant, more often plants producing extrafloral nectaries that attract multiple ant species. These ants feed on the sweet nectar before becoming victim of the wasp larvae – an example of unique food chain formed for survival in nature.
The unhatched wasp eggs look elliptical and flat on one side with a translucent white appearance. Slowly they turn brown on maturing and hatch around the tenth day. Intelligent and independent right from childhood, they trickily manage their camouflaged entry into an ant colony. After around a week, they attach themselves onto the ants, moving around in search of food, or to other insects that carry them to the ants’ nest. Naturally, the ants do not realize that they are bringing home their own killers. Extensive fieldwork often leads us to witness that the adult ants avoid the contact of the wasps. It could be because they recognize their predators lurking around for the right opportunity. However, what they fail to realize is that it is not the adult wasps but rather the just-born larvae that are actually going to hunt them down in the end.
Once in the ant colony, the cunning baby wasps (larvae) then attach themselves to baby ants and wait for them to grow up. The baby wasps then start feeding on them. Like fools, the hard working parent ants unknowingly even help them to survive in their colonies, letting them feast on their babies. Any guesses how? Adapting quickly to the ant colony, these little wasps begin to smell like the ants they live with and keep themselves safe in the enemy barracks itself. Not just deceivingly living with but feeding on their hosts too – isn’t that a unique camouflage and an example of beauty with brains in the wild?
So many such secrets and hidden ways of survival in the insect world are yet to be revealed, studied and recorded for generations to come.
Cover Pic: Beauty with Brains – The Eucharitid Wasp
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Amazing survival strategy. Very informative article.