To escape the "zombifying" sting of emerald jewel wasps, cockroaches deliver swift kicks aimed at the wasps' heads.
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It's a life-saving tactic to avoid what would be a gruesome fate for the cockroach. The emerald jewel wasp is a parasitic insect with a venomous sting, which it uses to put a cockroach into a passive, zombie-like state. After stinging the cockroach once to paralyze its front legs, it strikes a second time, injecting neurotoxins into the roach's brain. With free will lost, the cockroach can be led by its antennae to the wasp’s burrow, where it will lay an egg on the cockroach. Eventually, the cockroach will be eaten alive by the wasp's larva.
However, cockroaches do have the ability to fight back against the wasps. Biologist Kenneth Catania of Vanderbilt University studied the insect encounters and noted six ways that cockroaches defended themselves, including powerful kicks and biting. In the study, sixty-three percent of the cockroaches that launched any of these defenses against wasps avoided being stung.
Read "How roaches avoid deadly zombification—and more breakthroughs"
How Cockroaches Use Karate Kicks to Avoid Becoming Zombies | National Geographic