When their crops are plagued by caterpillars, farmers often turn to wasps for help. These wasps are hardened parasites: they lay their eggs inside the caterpillars, and once these eggs hatch the baby wasps eat the caterpillar from inside out. But the wasps themselves are parasitized by organisms that manipulate their host’s reproduction! Is this Nature’s way of enacting poetic justice in response to the wasps’ cruelty? Join the conversation to find out!
Speaking of poetry, Aditi, John, Julian, and Lev also discuss what they read for inspiration. For some, the amount of reading done for work pulls them away from reading for pleasure, but for others it brings out their appreciation of genres like science fiction. Listen in to hear more about the writing that inspires us.
Find more examples of the wasps’ weird reproduction, called parthenogenesis, or virgin births, in this BBC article. Find the scientific paper demonstrating the link between bacterial infections and parthenogenesis in parasitic wasps here.
You can also check out the books and show mentioned: I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong, Intuition by Allegra Goodman, Solaris by Stanisław Lem, and “Planet Earth” by BBC America.
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The cover image is from the 1910 book “Annual Report, including a report on the insects of New Jersey, 1909,” accessed via Internet Archive Book Images. It shows an insect egg parasite, Trichogramma pretiosa, very much enlarged.