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Emerald Wasps and the Creation of Zombie Roaches

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In the intricate ecosystems of the African savannah, a sinister interaction between predator and prey unfolds. The jewel/emerald cockroach wasp (Ampulex compressa), adorned in vibrant colors, employs a sophisticated hunting technique, transforming cockroaches into living incubators for their offspring. This article unveils the chilling yet fascinating interaction between the wasp and the roach, a spectacle of nature that combines precision, adaptation, and survival.

Jewel wasp
© Team Candiru YouTube

The Hunt Begins

The jewel cockroach wasp, with its emerald and gold hues, embarks on a hunt amidst the landscapes of Africa. Its prey, a robust and agile cockroach, is unaware of the impending encounter that will alter its fate. The wasp, with calculated precision, delivers two potent stings. The first immobilizes the roach’s front legs, while the second, administered with surgical precision to the brain, nullifies the roach’s escape reflex.

A Zombie Emerges

The cockroach, though alive, is transformed into a passive, zombie-like state. It’s not paralyzed but is robbed of its will to flee. A grotesque grooming ritual ensues, a side effect of the venom that courses through its system. The wasp, patient and calculating, severs the roach’s antennae, tasting its blood to confirm the efficacy of her venom.

The Burrow and the Egg

With the roach subdued, the wasp leads it to a pre-prepared burrow. Here, another chapter of this macabre interaction unfolds. The wasp lays an egg on the roach, turning it into a living nursery. The burrow is sealed meticulously, imprisoning the roach with the impending doom of the hatching larva, which will feed on its organs, consuming it alive yet strategically to prolong its life.

YouTube video
© Team Candiru YouTube

The Roach’s Defense

Yet, the cockroach is not entirely defenseless. Observations reveal roaches employing vigorous turns, potent kicks, and bites in desperate attempts to repel the wasp’s advances. Many wasps bear the scars of these encounters, a testament to the roach’s resilience and the inherent perils of this predatory ritual.

Nature’s Macabre Interaction

This interaction, though chilling, underscores the intricate balance of nature. The wasp’s venom, a masterpiece of evolutionary adaptation, and the roach’s desperate defenses are chapters of an ongoing narrative of predation and survival. Each species is honed by the relentless pressures of natural selection, contributing to our planet’s biodiversity and ecological complexity.


The tale of the jewel wasp and the zombie roach is a stark reminder of nature’s unforgiving yet awe-inspiring dynamics. Amidst the savannah’s beauty, these dramas unfold silent yet profound testaments to the indomitable spirit of life.

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Latest posts by Cayla de Souza, M.Sc. Ocean Sciences & Marine Biology (see all)

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