Watch a Cockroach Kick a Wasp in the Face To Avoid Zombification

Thursday, 01 November 2018 - 11:27AM
Thursday, 01 November 2018 - 11:27AM
Watch a Cockroach Kick a Wasp in the Face To Avoid Zombification
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Adapted from YouTube screenshot.
Sympathy for a pest like the cockroach is not something you'll encounter very often, but when the stakes include being stabbed in the head by an Emerald wasp and being turned into an egg-carrying zombie, that's a fate we wouldn't wish on any creature. Researchers at Vanderbilt University recently found that when cockroaches find themselves the targets of a wasp's nefarious body-jacking, they are not completely defenseless to stop it. During recorded attacks, some cockroaches went full Jean-Claude Van Damme circa 1989 and kicked the wasps in their heads.

"The cockroach has a suite of behaviors that it can deploy to fend off the zombie-makers, and this starts out with what I call the 'en garde' position, like in fencing," said biologist Ken Catania. "That allows the roach to move its antenna toward the wasp so it can track an approaching attack and aim kicks at the head and body of the wasp, and that's one of the most efficient deterrents. It's reminiscent of what a movie character would do when a zombie is coming after them." The strategy worked 63 percent of the time it was used by adult cockroaches. Young roaches were not so lucky.



Kicking wasn't the only defensive maneuver that the cockroaches used to stay alive. "Cockroaches bit at the abdomen of wasps delivering the brain sting," Catania wrote in the published paper titled "How Not to Be Turned into a Zombie." Most people have witnessed the resilience of cockroaches first-hand when they have tried and failed to kill one, but who knew that the indestructible little insects were also masters of tae kwon do and body biting? Maybe they deserve a little more respect than we have shown them over the centuries...or maybe we just need to start training Emerald wasps to become better at dodging roach kicks.
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