The Dominant Life Form
In terms of both number of species and individuals, insects are the dominant form of life on earth. Bugs outnumber animals and humans. For every one person, there are 168 million insects. And with so many diverse bugs around the world, some are bound to seem strange and living in some pretty interesting places. For instance, bugs can be found living in the super salty Great Salt Lake and even the oil pits in California. Insects live in nearly every habitat. They even live inside other bugs.
That’s one twisted critter
Though the twisted-wing parasite was named for the look of its wings, it could have been named for its lifecycle. Resembling a flea with simple eyes, the armored, wingless, parasite female will climb flowers or other plants and wait for an unsuspecting insect. The moment a bee or wasp gets near, the little twisted wing will use its spring-loaded tail to jump aboard. After landing on its new host, the parasite emits a corrosive enzyme that dissolves tough the exoskeleton and then it burrows inside. The abdomen will be its new home.
Home Sweet…. Wait, where are we?
Imagine having something feasting on your internal juices and living in your abdomen. For the Twisted Wing Parasite that is a way of life. Not only does the critter infect bees and wasps, it will also target grasshoppers, ants, cockroaches, beetles, and even praying mantises. The moment a twisted wing burrows into a host, the parasite undergoes a transformation. It loses legs and eyes to become a grub. Using nutrients and materials from the host, the invader forms a protective bag around it body. The layer effectively conceals the parasite from the host’s immune system. As it develops, the twisted-wing parasite will come to inhabit ninety percent of the abdomen. When they infest bees or wasps, they release chemicals that alter brain function, turning a hard worker into a lazy bum. The infested bee will wander around eating honey without doing any labor for the hive.
Let’s get this over with
The female spends the majority of her life living inside a host. When she develops to sexual maturity, her eyeless face pokes through the abdomen of the infected insect. From that spot, she releases pheromones to attract the males. Twisted-wing parasites get their name from the males. After a final metamorphosis, the males emerge from their abdomen bag. Equipped with twisted wings and an array of pheromone receivers, they have five days to find a female and mate before death. The window of mating is short, adult males don’t eat. In fact, they don’t even have mouths. Male twisted-wing parasites have eyes unlike anything in the insect world. Resembling a blackberry, each bubble lens is capable of creating a sophisticated image. When the female is found, she is facing the wrong direction and lacks the appropriate opening anyway. Thus, in a twisted act of procreation, the male stabs through her flesh (described as traumatic insemination) and the whole process begins again.
Twisted, describes the life of a twisted-wing parasite. Though they may be nightmarish in design and found throughout the world, the consolation prize is that they don’t infest humans. Now you can sleep peacefully at night, while the twisted wing sleeps inside the guy who makes your honey.