Monday, 28 December 2015

Hop to It! Cocooned Wasp Larvae Jump to Survive

by Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | December 23, 2015 09:21am ET

Tiny, cocooned parasitic wasp larvae hop their way to safety, jumping to get away from predators and to find cool, shady areas, a new study finds. These wee jumpers are adorable — though perhaps you might find them less so, once you learn that their cocoon shells originally held alfalfa weevil larvae, which the wasp larvae consumed after hatching.

Females of the parasitic wasp species Bathyplectes anurus lay their eggs in alfalfa weevil (Hypera postica) larvae. As the parasitized weevils spin cocoons during their final development stage, or instar, they're essentially sealing themselves into a tomb with their murderer. Once the wasp larva hatches, it eats the host, spins its own cocoon inside the host cocoon, which measures about 0.1 inch (3.5 millimeters) in length, and settles in, double-sealed for safety, waiting to pupate.

But even within their double-layered cocoons, the wasp larvae are responsive to their surroundings, the scientists found. Researchers observed the larvae moving their cocoons by using a "whipping movement," to shift away from danger or environmental stresses. 

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