While a number of venomous animals paralyze prey as live food for their young, the Emerald Cockroach wasp is slightly different, in that it initially leaves it’s cockroach victim mobile; and modifies it’s victim’s behavior in a very unique way.
As early as the 1940s, female Emerald Cockroach wasps have been used as natural exterminators, against cockroach pests. When it attacks, this natural pest control provider will sting the cockroach two times, delivering a powerful venom. In 2003, a study showed that the wasp is able to sting directly into specific ganglia of the cockroach, paralyzing the front legs. This strike allows for a second venomous sting, which is delivered to a carefully chosen area in the cockroach’s brain; specifically the region that controls the escape reflex. As a result of this second attack, the cockroach will become sluggish, and fail to show normal escape responses.
At this point, the Emerald Cockroach wasp will proceed to chew off half of each of the cockroach’s antennae. It is believed that this is done to replenish fluids, or to regulate the amount of venom released; by the natural pest control provider. The wasp, which is obviously too small to carry the paralyzed cockroach, then leads it’s hapless victim back to the wasp’s burrow, by pulling on one of the roach’s antennae. Much like walking a dog, on a leash. Once the two have reached the burrow, the Emerald Cockroach wasp will lay a single white egg (approx. 2 mm long), on the cockroach’s abdomen. It then leaves the burrow and fills in the entrance with pebbles, more to keep other predators out; than to keep it’s helpless victim in.
With the escape reflex disabled, the helpless cockroach lays in the burrow, while the Emerald Cockroach wasp’s egg hatches; in approximately three days. The hatched larva then lives and feeds for up to 5 days on the cockroach, chewing its way into it’s victim’s abdomen. Over the next eight days, the Emerald Cockroach wasp larva will consume the victim’s internal organs, in an systematic manner which will guarantee that the cockroach remains alive until the larva enters the pupal stage; and forms a cocoon inside the hollowed-out body. Eventually, the fully grown wasp will emerge from the cockroach’s carcass, and begins its adult life as an exterminator of cockroaches; and provider of natural insect control services.