Sometimes animals, and in this case insects, can be just as cruel as the human’s that inhabit this planet with them. The female Emerald Jewel wasp has the unique ability to deliver a nasty sting to cockroaches that does not kill them but turns them into virtual zombies. Why do this, instead of killing them? Well, the female uses her cockroach zombie slave as a host to lay her eggs into the still living cockroach and then bury the roach (alive) so that when her offspring hatch, they will have a carcass to feat upon. Talk about your premediated murder!
The wasp’s attack is delivered via two stings. The first renders the cockroaches legs immobile, while the second is a brutal singing action that shoves its stinger through the throat's soft tissues and up into the brain. All this takes place just 11 horrifying seconds.
Now the zombie-fied roach is led by its antenna to the wasp’s nest. For some bizarre reason, as the roach arrives at the places where it will be murdered it goes through a grooming process! We told you this was one weird article!
However, the cockroach who is reported to be able to survive a nuclear explosion and has thrived on this Earth since prehistoric times didn’t get its reputation by being a push over. Vanderbilt University's Ken Catania authored a paper in Brain, Behavior and Evolution with the provocative title, "How Not To Be Turned Into a Zombie."
Research has shown that roaches can use their hard, spiky legs as weapons, delivering nasty, sweeping roundhouse style kicks to their attacking wasps.
Catania researched and verified work done by naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt back in the 19th-century which documented electric eels in Venezuela aggressively leaping up and stunning horses with a series of high-voltage discharges. Applying some of that information Catania decided to investigate how the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) fought of the female jewel wasps (Ampulex compressa).
Catania was made aware of research documenting roaches trying to defend themselves from these deadly attacks decided to investigate further — with ultra-slow-speed videography.
"The cockroach has a suite of behaviors it can deploy to fend off the zombie makers," says Catania. "This starts out with what I call the en garde position, like in fencing." It's also known as "stilt standing." From that position, the roach can track an approaching wasp with its antenna and elevate its body, the better to aim a swift, hard kick at the wasp's head and body. The roach uses its leg almost like a baseball bat. If it puts up enough of a fight, "The wasp usually figures out there's a smaller and less-defensive cockroach out there to be had," he says.
He found that the kicking defense was initially pretty effective: 63 percent of adult roaches picked up on the approaching wasp and warded off the attack for a full three minutes. Unfortunately, most roaches cannot keep up this defense up for too long and in Catania study all the roaches in his wound up being turned into zombie slaves.