When you think of strange lifestyles, you might think of the horsehair worm, which spends most of its life as parasite, coiled up inside of an insect. The 17 year lifecycle of the cicada might also come to your mind. There is another insect parasite that gives a whole new meaning to strange life cycles.
Do you hate paper wasps? Meet Xenos vesparum, it is a small fly larva that lives it life as a parasite to paper wasps. Once a paper wasp is infected, the parasite alters the brain chemistry of its host. The wasp soon becomes withdrawn and selfish. You can image all the other wasps, working together to build their happy home, while the parasitized wasp refuses to work and shirks all of its responsibilities. In a social wasp organization, the infected wasps act completely out of character. Pretty soon, the wasp with the parasite leaves the colony and meets up at a prearranged area with all of the other parasitized wasps. For wasps carrying male X. vesparum this rendezvous is the end of the road. The male parasites burrow out of their hosts, find a wasp with a female parasite and mate. The female parasite then alters the brain chemistry of its host wasp again and soon the wasp is living large. The wasp eats what it wants, doesn’t work, in fact it is living the life of a queen wasp.
The final rendezvous When autumn arrives the infected wasp is fat, strong, and ready to the final bidding of its parasite master. The parasitized wasp goes looking for queens that have not yet been parasitized. When the infected wasp finds the winter hibernation areas of other queens, the adult parasitic fly distributes her eggs. Some of the gathered queens catch new parasites and the cycle of paper wasp death begins once again.
Message brought to you by Admiral Pest Control in Bellflower, CA.
Admiral Pest Control
9434 Artesia Boulevard