Parasitoid wasp affects metabolism of cockroach host to favor food preservation for its offspring

Gal Haspel, Eran Gefen, Amos Ar, J. Gustavo Glusman, Frederic Libersat

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26 Scopus citations


Unlike predators, which immediately consume their prey, parasitoid wasps incapacitate their prey to provide a food supply for their offspring. We have examined the effects of the venom of the parasitoid wasp Ampulex compressa on the metabolism of its cockroach prey. This wasp stings into the brain of the cockroach causing hypokinesia. We first established that larval development, from egg laying to pupation, lasts about 8 days. During this period, the metabolism of the stung cockroach slows down, as measured by a decrease in oxygen consumption. Similar decreases in oxygen consumption occurred after pharmacologically induced paralysis or after removing descending input from the head ganglia by severing the neck connectives. However, neither of these two groups of cockroaches survived more than six days, while 90% of stung cockroaches survived at least this long. In addition, cockroaches with severed neck connectives lost significantly more body mass, mainly due to dehydration. Hence, the sting of A. compressa not only renders the cockroach prey helplessly submissive, but also changes its metabolism to sustain more nutrients for the developing larva. This metabolic manipulation is subtler than the complete removal of descending input from the head ganglia, since it leaves some physiological processes, such as water retention, intact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-534
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Ampulex compressa
  • Oxygen consumption
  • Parasitoid
  • Periplaneta americana
  • Venom


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