When the Cockroach Meets its Match

If you ever had the misfortune of living with cockroaches, you know they are tough. Each one is fast enough to avoid newspapers. They can survive by eating practically anything. If you do not leave food out, they will eat soap, pet dander, grease, or the glue off a post stamp. Some species can survive being submerged in water for up to a half hour. In a fight with other insects, cockroaches can hold their own. They have sharp barbs on their legs that can be used to cut into potential predators. An adult cockroach is tough. It has little to fear from spiders or other insects.

Meet the bane of the cockroach When you think of wasps, stingers and nests might come to mind. Unlike paper wasps, the jewel wasp does not live in large colonies. It is solitary. With its bright colors, you would never suspect that it is a cockroach killing machine. The way it strikes, might give you insect nightmares for a month. It starts when an adult jewel wasp finds a cockroach. You don’t have to worry; jewel wasps only target cockroaches. Target is a good word, because the jewel wasp has a precision stinger that would make a brain surgeon jealous.

Perfection stings Long before people developed surgery, the jewel wasp has been treating cockroach patients. Unfortunately for the cockroach, the patients of the jewel wasp never recover. The first move is a strategic venom saturated sting. The sting immobilizes the muscles which control the roach’s front legs. Once the roach is restrained, the second sting is delivered. The jewel wasp inserts its stinger up into a specific region of the cockroach’s brain. The roach immediately enters a state of satisfied euphoria. It no longer tries to escape. It no longer tries to run away from the little wasp. The roach waits contently as the wasp bites off a portion of its antennae and feeds. Venom is expensive; the little wasp needs a bit of cockroach energy drink to keep it moving. The cockroach sits in peace while the wasp goes to work digging the roach’s grave.

Buried and eaten alive Once the tomb is constructed, the wasp grabs ahold of the cockroach’s intact antennae and leads it like a dog into the depths of the grave. The jewel wasp doesn’t want the cockroach to get lonely, so it leaves a little friend in the form of an egg. The entryway is then sealed.

Alone with the egg, the cockroach waits in peace as the egg hatches into a larva. The maggot like grub chews into the roach as feeds off its life juices. Once the larva gets large enough, it burrows into the living cockroach and begins to eat it from the inside. This goes on until the larva forms a cocoon. An adult wasp then emerges from the cocoon and tears through the husk of cockroach. If it was still alive, the roach is dead now. Cockroaches may be lauded as the supreme insect, that is, until the little jewel wasp arrives.