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  • Writer's pictureSylvia Meller

Braconid wasp, Dinocampus coccinellae, emerging from Ladybird

The mature female wasp seeks out adult female ladybirds. One egg is planted in the host's soft underbelly. The wasp larva hatches after 5–7 days into a first instar larva with large mandibles and proceeds to remove any other eggs or larvae before beginning to feed on the ladybird's fat bodies and gonads. Meanwhile, the ladybird continues to forage and feed until the wasp larva, when it is ready to emerge after 18–27 days, paralyzes the ladybird before tunneling out.It pupates in a cocoon attached to the leg of the living ladybird, whose brightly colored body and occasional twitching reduce predation. If a predator tries to eat it, the ladybird retaliates, scaring it off, becoming the parasite's bodyguard. Ladybirds paralyzed, twitching, and attached to the cocoon of D. coccinellae have been compared to zombies. After 6–9 days, the wasp emerges from the cocoon. Remarkably, some 25% of ladybirds revive and emerge from paralysis once the cocoon has been emptied. We did not manage to watch the wasp emerging but the ladybird was still twitching after the wasp had gone, though after 2 weeks since the first clip was filmed, the beetle was still not walking up fully from being 'zombiefied'.

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