Jewel Wasps – All About the Roach Killer

The gorgeous colors of jewel wasps may be quite misleading. They are predators with neurotoxic venoms that help them to hunt their prey. These small wasps are able to attack roaches that are twice as big as they are. The female wasps are 22 mm long, while males are even smaller, as they don’t have a stinger. 

The most important thing to know about jewel wasps is that their paralyzing venom works only for roaches, so you have nothing to worry about. Also, the chances of getting stung by these wasps are very low due to the environment where they live. 

Jewel wasps have the metallic bluish-green body and red things of the second and third pair of legs. Jewel wasps are very interesting to explore as they are able to precisely sting their prey in a certain part of their brains. 

This wasp grabs the cockroach by the neck in order to sting. The venom blocks the neurotransmitter in the roach’s brain. This helps to disable the roach’s escape reflexes while keeping it alive. The escape reflex makes the roach scatter when it sees the light. 

The state in which the roach falls after being stung by a wasp is also called zombifying. The roach is not in control of its body anymore and the wasp manipulates it. Even though the jewel wasps are beautiful, the way they reproduce is terrifying. 

Their neurotoxic venom can not only temporarily paralyze the victim, but also put it in the ‘zombie’ state, so that the predator is able to take control over the prey’s body.   

How Do Jewel Wasps Reproduce?

Like many parasitic wasps, the jewel wasps find the host to lay their eggs on. While other parasitic wasps choose different insects, such as spiders, the jewel wasp preys only on one insect – cockroach. 

It takes exactly two precise stings and the roach is doomed. The first sting causes the paralysis of the roach’s front legs and makes it easier for the wasp to continue the process. The first sting gives the wasp additional time to sting the second time more precisely in the head. 

The wasp gets an opportunity to slip her stinger through the exoskeleton of the roach to sting the brain directly. The whole process takes about 15 seconds. The female wasp injects its powerful venom that turns off the roach’s ability to walk on its own. Here the wasp takes the lead and walks the roach to its burrow, and then seals it to protect the egg.

You can see that amazing bevaior in this vid:

It’s interesting how precisely wasps can sting the roaches. Scientists ran numerous experiments where they inserted the venom in other areas of the roach’s brain. The experiments have shown that only one part of the roach’s brain, a certain ganglion, helps to turn off the ability to walk and scatter. 

The female wasps lay their eggs on the surface of the cockroach and with time the egg turns into an adult wasp in the roach’s body.

The larva feeds on the roach’s surface for a couple of days, but then it will start to burrow into the body of the host. The larva will start eating all the least essential organs, as it wants to keep the roach alive for longer. 

It takes about eight days for the larva to form a pupa. Inside the cockroach, the larva of the wasps enters a new stage – pupa stage, meaning it starts to form as a wasp. During the pupation, the larva produces a blown-colored, thick cocoon, which breaks together with the roach’s body when the wasp is developed. Then the full adult wasp comes out of the body of the roach after four weeks of living inside the roach.

Scientists also state that the jewel wasp can taste the roach’s blood to identify if the sting worked effectively. If there was not enough venom, then the roach will quickly recover. If there was too much venom, then the roach will die sooner. 

After the wasp sees that the venom worked, it leads the roach to its burrow. Then to make sure the egg laid on the roach is protected, the jewel wasp seals the burrow with rocks and twigs. This may take up to 30 minutes. Sometimes even longer.

It takes approximately one month for a wasp to completely develop into an adult wasp. And after that, the process repeats. Then the lifecycle of the wasp is several months so that the female wasp can lay several dozens of eggs.

It’s interesting how the jewel wasps manage to manipulate the behavior of the roach for the benefit. The wasps make cockroaches be the guards of the egg, a great shelter and source of fresh food for larvae. 

The lifecycle of the jewel wasps is several months. The female wasp needs only one mating in order to lay dozens of eggs. 

Where Does The Jewel Wasp Live?

The jewel wasps live in tropical subtropical regions across Australia, Africa, India, South Asia, China, and the Pacific Islands. These wasps can be also found in Latin America, in Brazil.

Jewel wasps need a warm climate and a species-rich environment. In particular, a large number of insects are required for them to spread.

These conditions are found in large parts of the world around the equator. However, rising temperatures could enable that it spreads north into the U.S.

What Does A Jewel Wasp Eat?

The jewel wasps belong to the solitary wasps. Solitary wasps are carnivores and predators. And as most of the solitary wasps feed on other insects, spiders, and nectar. The jewel wasps also depend on the cockroaches, as they are the main food source for the hatched larvae. 

Do Jewel Wasps Sting Humans?

The humans have nothing to worry about, as the jewel wasps prey only on the cockroaches, as they are the perfect hosts for their eggs. The jewel wasps have no interest in humans, that’s why the chances of getting stung by this wasp are extremely low.

Are Jewel Wasps Endangered?

The number of wasps is constantly declining, however, the jewel wasps are not considered endangered. The parasitoid wasps are a large group of wasps. The jewel wasps belong to the family Ampulicidae, which includes 170 species.

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