Sanitary Eating Habits Are Important To Baby Wasps
You would not think of insects as creatures that value clean eating habits. But bugs are dirty, and predatory insects can become sick from eating unclean foods just like humans can. There is no doubt that insects have different immune systems than humans, as they can survive in environments that are rich in microbes. But there is alway a limit to how many germs certain bugs can tolerate. For example, the larvae of emerald cockroach wasps must rid their insect meals of microbes before digging in. This is especially important for these wasps since, as their name suggests, they prefer to dine on germ-contaminated roaches.
Roaches can even be dangerous to humans if they have come into contact with our food. If we do find a roach skittering across our dinner plates, then most of us will throw out our meals. However, the emerald wasps do not mind roaches as they have evolved methods of cleaning roach carcasses before devouring them. These wasps sting their roach prey several times before laying a single egg inside of their bodies. Afterwards, the egg hatches and feeds on the roach. Eventually an adult wasp will emerge from the roach carcass.
So how can the larvae feed on the roach innards without becoming sick? Roaches are already dirty, and after several weeks they will have spoiled, making for even more contaminated with germs. In order to prevent illness, the larvae secrete antimicrobial substances that prevent the roach flesh from spoiling. The larvae completely soak dead roaches with these compounds in order to prevent the growth of certain microbial compounds. This is a great ability to have, as the pathogenic microbes would certainly kill the larvae if it were not for its super cleaning power. Researchers are amazed at how effective these larval secretions are at sanitizing long dead roaches. The larvae secrete multiple antibiotics that inhibit the growth of viruses, fungi and bacteria, which makes these wasps truly unique specimens.
Do you think that this sanitizing process is more important to wasps in the larval stage, as their immune systems are not as developed as adults?