Wasps Control Spider Zombies

January 27th, 2016

Wasps Control Spider Zombies

Wasp attacks orb-weaving spider. Wasp makes spider her zombie slave. Zombie spider carefully nests wasp eggs until they hatch into baby wasp. Baby wasp eats now useless zombie spider slave. Is this for real? You bet it is. In Japan, scientists have found that the R. nielseni  wasp is able to somehow able to turn the orb-weaving spider into its zombielike slave to first carry and then feed its babies. The wasp and the spider provide an example of host manipulation, a process in which one species acts as a parasite and manipulates another species to do its bidding.

What is even more interesting is that the spiders under the control of these wasps actually build webs that are very different from their wasp overlord-free spider buddies. After the wasp attaches attacks the spider and attaches its eggs to it, the spider then builds a resting web (one that spiders use for when they are molting) that is vastly superior and much stronger than the resting webs built by spiders not under the control of the wasps. The wasp is able to force the spider to make a new type of resting web (termed a cocoon web) that will stand up to the toughest of conditions and last up to five times longer than a regular resting web. This super strong resting web (or cocoon web) is able to hold and protect the wasp larvae after it hatches, eats the spider, and then spins itself a cocoon to complete its metamorphosis into a wasp.

Have you ever heard of host manipulation in the insect kingdom before? Does the idea that wasps can turn spiders into zombie slaves frighten you…just a little?

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January 2016