- The parasitoid solitary wasp Ampulex compressa uses the cockroach Periplaneta americana as a food supply for its larvae. To subdue its prey, the wasp injects a venom cocktail into the brain of the cockroach. We investigated channel activity of A. compressa venom by collecting venom and incorporating it into a planar lipid bilayer. The venom, reconstituted into the bilayer, showed ion channel activity, forming a fast-fluctuating channel with a small conductance of 20+/-0.1pS, with no voltage sensitivity. These channels were not observed when the venom was digested with proteases before application to the bilayer, but were not affected by exposure to protease after their incorporation into the bilayer, indicating that the active venom component is a peptide. The channels were found to be cation selective with similar selectivity for the monovalent cations K(+), Li(+) and Na(+), but showed high selectivity against anions (Cl(-)) and divalent cations (Ca(2+) and Mg(2+)). This study is the first demonstration and biophysical characterization of channel activity in the venom of A. compressa. The possible functional significance of this channel activity is discussed in light of the unusual nature of the effects of this wasp venom on the behavior of its prey.