Feature Creature: Jewel Wasp


Photo Credit: Ram Gal

Tara Afshar, Journalist

When you think of zombies you probably don’t think of brainwashed cockroaches, but that exactly what the Jewel Wasp does. Native to the African Savanna and parts of Asia, the Ampulex Compressa lives in a burrow that they tunnel themselves. This insect species heavily rely on cockroaches, as it’s the prime food source for their larvae. When a female Jewel Wasp is ready to release her egg, she first hunts for her prey. The unlucky cockroach chosen will be stung a total of two times, once to temporarily immobilize its front legs and the second directly into the cockroach’s brain. Interestingly, it finds the brain by using sensors to find where neurotransmitters are released. However the venom doesn’t kill the roach, in fact, a Jewel Wasp’s venom just removes a roach’s survival instinct, causes them to impulsively goom themselves, and essentially turns the prey into a zombified puppet.
Later, the Jewel Wasp bites and tastes the blood of their prey to make sure enough venom was injected into the victim to make sure they won’t wake up. The insect then begins the long process of dragging the cockroach into her burrow, and proceeds to fill the entrance of the tunnel with rocks and twigs. This in turn, creates a suitable environment for the said Jewel Wasp’s larva that was injected inside the cockroach in the first sting. Feeding off the roach, the larva eats its way out of the host in a method that keeps it alive for as long as possible. After a few months, the larva with hatch from the dry cockroach skin and crawl from the burrow, ready to start the cycle of reproduction once again.