Parasitoids have always amazed researchers due to their ability to mind-control other insects and oblige them to carry out various chores on their behalf. Scientists have made a new discovery proving killer wasps turn spiders into zombies to weave their nests.
Thought humankind is mean and you’d be better off alone on a deserted island? Guess again. Chances are you could stumble upon a much more dangerous species like, say, the Reclinervellus nielseni wasps. The behavior of these insects has but recently been observed, but the few facts we know about them have been enough to make us love and appreciate our brethren.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, these killer wasps have all the survival skills they need, but zero conscientious scruples. They take advantage of weaker insects and use them to carry out various chores on their behalf.
The victims that fell prey to this species of wasps are usually the Cyclosa argenteoalba spiders. Parasitoids lie eggs on their hosts’ bodies, which develop into larvae and consume the spiders’ interiors until they become zombie-liked slaves that can be controlled and forced to do various things.
The deadly wasps, however, seem to be more interested in spiders’ abilities to build webs. Based on previous researchers, it appears that Cyclosa argenteoalba can create two types of webs, one that has a classic orb design with a sticky middle where the prey is caught and a so-called ‘resting’ web that spiders use to deposit their own eggs and basically… rest.
Wasps seem to have observed their prey’s tactics becoming aware of their engineering abilities. For that matter, they use their larvae to subdue spiders and to make them build resting webs for them. But killer wasps are not that easy to please. They impose certain building criteria for their new cocoons, namely, they want the spiders to reinforce them and to make them much safer for wasps’ eggs.
Spiders rarely comment. They couldn’t, even if they wanted to, considering that the wasp larvae on their bodies control their minds through a possibly chemical compound, according to scientists’ theories. Experiments have shown that the zombie-liked hosts have little or no control on their bodies; they simply do what they are told to and once their mission is over, they lie in the middle of the ‘resting’ net waiting for the larvae to completely devour it. ‘Cause there is no happy end to this story, all spiders die, in the end.
For the current experiment, scientists have made microscopic observations of the spider webs and compared them to the ones that were built for the killer species of wasps. Spiders’ steps have been carefully documented from the very moment when they were subjugated until the last moment of their lives showing that wasps have controlled their minds the whole time.
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