Graduate student Emily Meineke had one of those ‘OH S&^%!’ moments while in the lab the other day. Best part is she caught it on film.
Emily studies scale insects, small bugs that spend most of their lives sucking the juices from willow oaks. She’s also interested in the insects that attack scales. You can imagine that a scale insect stuck on a branch sucking plant juice is an easy target for a predator.
Scales are particularly vulnerable to attack by parasitoid wasps. Female wasps lay their eggs inside the scale. The scale essentially acts as a womb for the developing wasps. The baby wasps grow and ultimately emerge as adults, leaving the empty dead sac of a scale behind.
Emily was inspecting willow oak branches infested with oak lecanium scale (and their parasitoids), and counting how many had evidence of wasp emergence.
Not only did she see evidence of emergence (dead scale sacs), she saw emergence in action. And snapped a photo of it (above, with help from Andrew Ernst).
Behold Emily’s ‘OH S&^%!’ moment: the ‘birth’ of a real-life wasp zombie, Encyrtus fuscus!