Parasitoid Rex

14 August 2007


Piss-poor photo of a parasitoid wasp ovipositing in an aphid.

Continuing with the ‘unsavory’ insect behavior theme, Carl Zimmer has a fascinating new article in the Times about parasitoid wasps. The article discusses the strange life cycle of Copidosoma floridanum (not the species pictured above) a wasp that targets cabbage looper caterpillars. Parasitoids, for those unacquainted with the term, are essentially parasites that kill their host, the most familiar pop-culture example being the chest-busting xenomorphs of Alien fame.

As Zimmer notes in the companion blog post over at the Loom, parasitoid wasps eating their hosts alive famously inspired Charles Darwin to question the notion of an all-loving God as the architect of creation. Of course enlightened types, like Ann Coulter, know that God gave us the mission of raping the planet so of course He would have thrown in a little animal-on-animal violence for fun.

A great many wasps adopt a parasitoid lifestyle, from the tiny aphid hunter pictured at top to the giant Tarantula Hawks (Pepsis) who paralyze their victims and drag them back to their lair to serve as a living larder for their larva. While all of this might strike us, and Chuck D., as very distasteful it’s important to remember that this is how these creatures make their living.  They’re no more or less dignified than tigers in the jungle or gulls at the dump. Or science writers, for that matter, but lo that all were as gifted as Carl Zimmer.

tarantula hawk

%$!& Shadows… A Pepsis wasp hunts for spiders among the leaf litter.

2 Responses to “Parasitoid Rex”

  1. a pepsi wasp? stop it.

  2. Neil Says:

    Hey, it’s the choice of the new generation.

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