‘Crypt-keeper’ wasp is the stuff of nightmares

Posted at 9:58 AM, Jan 27, 2017

A new species of wasp discovered in the southeastern United States has a survival strategy that might make your head explode. Because that’s literally what it does to another kind of wasp.

(Photo: Andrew Forbes/University of Iowa)

(Photo: Andrew Forbes/University of Iowa)

The “crypt-keeper” wasp preys on gall wasps, which burrow in trees, according to Rice University scientists.

The diabolical wasp finds the gall wasp’s burrow, which is known as a crypt, and deposits an egg inside. When the egg hatches, the larva takes over the mind of the gall wasp and manipulates it into digging out, researchers explain.

The exit hole is too small and the gall wasp gets stuck at the emergence point. Then the crypt-keeper wasp eats its way through the other wasp’s body and bursts out through its head.

Rice researchers said the wasp is a rare example of hypermanipulation, or hyperparasitism, in which one parasite is manipulated by another parasite.

The insidious insect was named Euderus set, or E. set, after Set, “the Egyptian god of evil and chaos who trapped his brother Osiris in a crypt, killed him and then cut him into little pieces,” researchers explain.

E. set has been found in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana.