Cuckoo wasps certainly are devious. In a similar fashion to cuckoo birds, they stealthily place their eggs in the nests of other wasps and bees. To do this they are masters at disguise, surveillance, and self-defense. Let’s find more, as we countdown the top 5 powers of the cuckoo wasp.
The species have incredible survival skills
They have gone unchanged for millions of years. Fossils preserved in amber discovered in Myanmar in 2020 show cuckoo wasps dated to 99 million years ago are virtually identical to those found today. Remarkably, the green color of the insects was preserved matching the green seen on cuckoo wasps now. Given that humans have only been around for 200 thousand years, it truly is remarkable.
They are masters of surveillance
The cuckoo wasp will spy on potential hosts in order to find nests that they can penetrate and lay their eggs in. They will follow other wasp species and observe them building nests and delivering food. Then they will wait for the wasp to leave and at an opportune time penetrate the host nest and deposit their own egg within.
They have long telescopic ovipositors perfect for penetrating a host nest
Unlike most wasps, they lack the ability to sting. Instead the ovipositor is used exclusively for laying eggs. They drill into the nests of potential hosts including the mud nests of digger wasps to lay their egg. Then they cover their tracks by repairing any damage to the nest. This way their deposited egg can go undetected.
They can fold their bodies into a protective armoured ball
Unlike other wasp species cuckoo wasps have the ability to roll themselves into a protective ball. This can be compared to the tactics deployed by species such as hedgehogs. This protective ability is important as they are unable to sting and infiltrating other wasp nests is a risky business. In addition to their ability to roll into a protective ball, they also have thick armor-like exoskeletons capable of withstanding attacks. In this way, they are able to protect any vulnerable areas. Predators find it difficult to crush, bite, or sting this protective layer. If caught in a host’s nest they can roll into a ball and ride out an attack.
They can chemically camouflage themselves
When entering a host nest cuckoo wasps can cover their infiltration by releasing a chemical that mimics the scent of their host species. Unless seen by the host species this amazing ability allows the cuckoo wasp to enter a nest entirely undetected to lay their eggs. Once hatched, the cuckoo wasp offspring will consume the host eggs and take their place, consuming the food provided by the unwitting host. With these incredible powers, it’s no wonder cuckoo wasps have survived for so long.