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Apanteles glomeratus wasp cocoons with the cabbage white butterfly caterpillar

Turns out these pretty little golden cocoons belong to a parasitic wasp that laid it's eggs inside the caterpillar, which survives the ordeal of the parasites emerging and then stands guard for predators until it eventually dies of starvation.

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Comment by Joseph on October 13, 2012 at 21:42

Florence, you probably shouldn't watch Aliens_vs._Predator:_Requiem either :)

Comment by Florence on October 13, 2012 at 20:31

This is good material for horror movies ^^" ..... I don't think I want to watch that You Tube video at the moment.... 

Comment by Lissa on October 13, 2012 at 8:36

Amazing isn't it. Right inside the caterpillar.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on October 13, 2012 at 8:19

You're right about gross! The photography though, is just stunning.

Comment by Lissa on October 13, 2012 at 7:35

You've found the answer for sure! Great link Joseph.

In all the nature shows I've watched I've never seen info on this one. A grub standing guard - I would have thought "from what could they possibly protect the cocoons", but it's stink bugs:

These zombie-like sentinels only moved in the presence of stinkbugs, which will eat both caterpillars and wasp pupae. When Grosman placed these predators near the caterpillars, almost all of the parasitized ones  lashed out with violent swings of their heads.

How does the wasp make the caterpillar change its behaviour so radically? The weird change only happens about two weeks after the female wasp originally filled the caterpillar with eggs, so she’s unlikely to play any role in it. The hatching process isn’t the trigger, because caterpillars that are artificially damaged don’t behave in the same way. And the pupae don’t secrete any mind-altering chemicals because placing them next to uninfected caterpillars has no effect.

The most likely scenario is altogether more amazing. When Grosman dissected guardian caterpillars, he found that not all the wasp larvae leave their hosts. One or two stay behind and are still active. Grosman thinks that its these hangers-on that manipulate the half-dead caterpillar. They effectively sacrifice themselves for the survival of their siblings.

Here's a You Tube video that will really gross you out lol, but it shows the whole process in great detail from beginning to end.


Comment by Elaine de Saxe on October 12, 2012 at 21:20

Good grief!

Comment by Joseph on October 12, 2012 at 18:14
Comment by Joseph on October 12, 2012 at 18:12

Hmm it didn't click until Lissa said the caterpillar is guarding the 'eggs'. I also should have read her description before embarking on a lecture about army worms. Unfortunately army worms really get under my skin (not literally, thankfully!), they are so destructive to brassicas.

Comment by Lissa on October 12, 2012 at 18:05

I was thinking parasite. But the caterpillar shows no sign of damage and the eggs usually get laid inside the host, not outside, and they always kill their host. Food source.

Besides, these don't look like eggs. They look like cocoons with thrown silk outers.

And how could a caterpiller actually benefit them in any other way than as a food source?

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on October 12, 2012 at 16:18

Gross but on the other hand, if they control Cabbage White butterfly (an exotic) then lett'em rip! There are major numbers of parasitic wasp illustrated on Brisbane Insects but none of the eggs/pupae. I've seen those golden cocoons now and then too and didn't have the least idea what insect they were from. Thank you for the photo Lissa and for that tip about the parasitic wasps, Joseph!

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