The Emerald Wasp has the unique ability to turn the common household cockroach into its zombie slave by using a powerful neurotoxin.
With two stings, the Emerald Wasp causes the cockroach to lose its ability to initiate its own movement, even though it continues to stand. This wears the Emerald Wasp out though, so it cuts the antennae off the cockroach, and drinks its blood to rejuvenate. Once its thirst is quenched, the wasp then latches onto the cockroaches remaining antenna, and is able to force the cockroach to follow it around.
The Emerald Wasp then lays an egg onto the cockroach, which hatches after three to four days. The newly hatched larva will then chew its way into the cockroach’s abdomen, where it eats the internal organs in a particular order. This allows the cockroach to stay alive for the next four days until the larva form a cocoon inside it. Through this all, the zombified cockroach does nothing to flee, even though its being eaten alive from the inside.
While scientists first observed this wasp-cockroach relationship in the 1940’s, it wasn’t until recently that they were able to understand how the Emerald Wasp is able to control the cockroach. Scientists have found that the first sting releases a mixture of chemicals that blocks the transmission of motor signals between nerves, temporarily paralyzing the front legs of the cockroach so that it can’t escape. It is the second sting however which turns the cockroach into a zombie of sorts. This neurotoxic cocktail blocks the receptors of the neurotransmitter octopamine, which is involved in complex movements such as walking. The cockroach is thus left unable to initiate its own movement.
There is after-all a difference between the ability to walk, and the ability to move oneself. The neurotoxin cocktail manages to leave the cockroaches only able to walk when prompted by an outside source, which in this instance is the Emerald Wasp. Its a somewhat terrifying display of parasitic behaviour, which thankfully would not be able to incapacitate a human from such a small dose.
Images: Cari Artike