We love Halloween! Suddenly everyone embraces the things that typically scare them; and we can share our passion for pests in the spirit of the holiday. It also gives us a chance to spread the word about our annual HomeTeam Halloween sweepstakes! Some of the most interesting and spookiest insects are zombifying wasps and bloodthirsty spiders.
The Dinocampus cocinellae wasp preys on ladybugs, making them the wasp larva’s bodyguard. When a female wasp is ready to lay an egg, she inserts her stinger into the ladybug’s abdomen, injecting an egg and a blend of chemicals. The ladybug unknowingly continues a normal life for about three weeks, while the wasp larva grows within her, feeding off her fluids for nutrients until the wasp larva is ready to become an adult. Some ladybugs survive becoming the larva’s zombie, and can even be a host more than once.
A similar, but unfortunate situation occurs when a Glyptapanteles wasp lays its eggs inside a caterpillar. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the caterpillar’s body fluids and then eat their way through the caterpillar’s skin, yikes! They then attach to a nearby branch or leaf and wrap into a cocoon. The caterpillar serves as the cocoon’s bodyguard until it’s ready to hatch, warding off prey that approaches, just like a zombie!
The Ichneumonid wasp preys on orb weaver spiders by laying their eggs on the back of the spiders and paralyzing them. Under the wasp’s zombie-like spell, the spider is forced to spin a web to protect the larva’s cocoon. The wasp then eats the spider like a zombie eats humans, settles down in its cocoon, and grows into an adult.
Similar to a vampire being attracted to human blood, Evarcha culicivora and Parcybra wanlessi spiders are attracted to blood- sucking mosquitoes. While these spiders prey on mosquitoes, they lack the mouthparts to pierce human skin so they are not a threat to us. They can be considered beneficial pests, as they reduce the number of bothersome mosquitoes trying to suck blood.
Lucky for you, none of these insects prey on humans, but they could make great costumes!
As always, if you have a pest problem, HomeTeam Pest Defense is here to help. Visit www.PestDefense.com or call (877) 461-7378 to schedule an appointment today! Halloween!