Once more nature shows us how inventive some creatures can be in seeking to protect their young., by employing, however unwilling, other species to guard them.
Dinocampus coccinellae is the Latin name for a breed of wasp that protects the young of the species in a unique way.Even though the performing of this act means that fewer young get produced, the survival odds go up more than enough to cover for that, and the way they go about this odd ritual?
The female wasp of the species finds and attack a ladybird, but not to kill it, instead injecting an egg into the insects, which becomes a larva, feeding on internal tissues of the host insect, before breaking out. Once free of the insect, the larvae spin cocoons, and the partially paralyzed ladybird is left laying astride this cocoon, twitching and grasping occasionally at the cocoon below, warding off potential predators with the appearance of being alive.
This means that the creatures, such as Lacewing butterflies, that would normally predate such eggs do so much less frequently. Of course, since the adult wasps need to ensure that the co-opted baby-sitters remain alive to police the eggs is an impairment to their natural breeding patterns, but a price the wasp obviously considers worth paying.
The work involved in making this gruesome discovery, by University of Montreal colleagues Jacques Brodeur, Fanny Maure and others, have been recently published in the Biology Letters section of the Royal Society journal. These Canadian researchers worked in both laboratory and field conditions, finding that around a quarter of the ladybirds that were used by the wasps in this way actually survived the ordeal, so fatality for them was not a given.
This incredible scenario is once again proof that nothing is ever stranger than fact, and that the diversity of natural invention, in the search for survival, knows absolutely no boundaries. So many strange, fascinating, hypnotic events in nature, every second of every day, and most of them go on completely unnoticed by we humans, too busy ever to look closely. Such a shame really, because there is so much to see.
Image used with permission