Wasp manipulates cockroach behavior by injecting venom cocktail into prey central nervous system Academic Article uri icon


  • The parasitoid wasp Ampulex compressa induces behavioral changes in the cockroach prey by injecting venom into its central nervous system. In contrast to most other venomous predators, the wasp's sting does not induce paralysis. Rather, the two consecutive stings in the thoracic and head ganglia induce three stereotypic behavioral effects. The prey behavior is manipulated in a way beneficial to the wasp and its offspring by providing a living meal for its newborn larva. The first sting in the thorax causes a transient front leg paralysis lasting a few minutes. This paralysis prevents the cockroach from fighting with its front legs, thereby facilitating the second sting in the head. A postsynaptic block of central synaptic transmission mediates this leg paralysis. Following the head sting, dopamine identified in the venom induces 30 minutes of intense grooming that appears to prevent the cockroach from straying until the last and third behavioral effect of hypokinesia commences. In this lethargic state that lasts about three weeks, the cockroach does not respond to various stimuli nor does it initiates movement. However, other specific behaviors of the prey are unaffected. We propose that the venom represses the activity of head ganglia neurons thereby removing the descending excitatory drive to specific thoracic neurons.

publication date

  • January 1, 2004