Will Holz

Causing Trouble for the Forces of Good
Causing Trouble for the Forces of Good

Boy Eats Girl, the Very Bad life cycle of a Very Strange wasp.

Meet Encarsia Tricolor Forster. (no relation). As wasps go, she’s actually kind of cute. Maybe not baeus-cute, but cute nonetheless.

Illustration for article titled Boy Eats Girl, the Very Bad life cycle of a Very Strange wasp.

You’d have to look pretty close to see her at all though, she’s also basically a dot.

She’s a horrible, horrible dot who does horrible, horrible things.

We start with a pretty normal parasitoid life cycle. Tiny little mama wasp up there is laying her eggs on their new home/lunch, in this case...it’s a whitefly. That means it’s going to be a baby girl, just like mama.


As likely as not, the precious little baby’s first act will be to participate in a battle to the death with any other babies that other mama wasps left on their own. Each whitefly is a cage match, and only one weaponized baby leaves.

Eventually, after nomming away on the carcasses of the other combatants she eats the whitefly from the inside out.


Did I mention how much it sucks to be a whitefly in this scenario? You do not want to host a cage match for things the size of squirrels inside you, but you’re also completely screwed the moment one emerges victorious.

Then, all the hard stuff over with, she pupates and prepares to form wings and leave her host.


Unless, that is, another mama e.forster comes by and is thinking ‘there aren’t enough boys in the yard to appreciate my milkshake’. (I assume that’s how parasitic wasps think)

That’s when things take a sharp turn into wrong.

E.forster is a very special type of parasitoid. She’s called a heteronormus hyperparasitoid. Each gender has a different host. We know it’s a girl when the host is a whitefly.


We know it’s a boy when the host is a member of the family.

To make boys, she needs a baby girl, and she has to be all fattened up and about to become a woman.


She lays a different type of egg on who may very well be her own daughter.

The species can only continue if it parasitizes itself. (or is lucky enough to find a very, very close cousin handy)


...meanwhile the boys are having their own little cage match...

Nature is so delightfully wrong.

About your host (he’s mostly harmless.)

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