I had scarcely arrived in the park this morning when I came upon a zombie.
I did not know it at the time. A few photos posted on our local FB Wildlife page revealed the identity of the unknown subject and the rest fell into place.
Here are the two stars of the show.
Pretty aren’t they. The one on the left is a nymph of Periplaneta australasiae. Quite nattily attired. The right hand protagonist is probably a Sphecid wasp, Ampulex sp. I am indebted to Blackdog To Chan for pointing me in the right direction and to Mercury Wong for pointing out that this is not Ampulex compressa (as I had previously written).
With that information I went off to search for more information and found John Lee’s site. John is a near neighbour of mine and the author of Potentially Dangerous Bees and Wasps of Hong Kong. How this little wasp can be is best described in Wikipedia’s article on the Emerald Cockroach Wasp. Essentially the wasp stings the roach twice, paralysing it but not killing it. It turns the roach into a zombie and drags its much larger prey back to its home, where it lays an egg or two on the roach. As Wiki puts it ” the stung roach will simply rest in the burrow as the wasp’s egg hatches after about three days. The hatched larva lives and feeds for 4–5 days on the roach, then chews its way into its abdomen and proceeds to live as an endoparasitoid. Over a period of eight days, the wasp larva consumes the roach’s internal organs in an order which maximizes the likelihood that the roach will stay alive, at least until the larva enters the pupal stage and forms a cocoon inside the roach’s body.”
So there we have it. The wasp larvae eat the roach inside out. Are you enjoying this? More cake anybody? This is what our friendly wasp looks like in close up.
Quite innocent looking. Nice red leggings. But a living incarnation of something that belongs in a Hammer Horror film or maybe Dr. Who. Remember the Zarbi anyone? I would never have imagined such dreadful goings-on in sleepy little Sai Kung.
But not everything in the garden (or park) is destined to end up working alongside Vincent Price or Peter Cushing. Or perhaps Doris Karloff or Bela Lugosi for some. In the very same park I found this gorgeous chap – his name, Polycanthagyna erythromelas, rolls off the tongue. Also answers to the name Tiger Hawker.
To be fair, this ode was not in the easiest of places to photograph. I had to go off the track and crouch down pond-side to get anything like within shooting distance. I used a little fill-flash to lighten the shadows. I shall have another go later to see if I can get a better photo but they don’t normally sit still for very long and I need a longer lens than my 180mm. Bad workman etc.
And just to eradicate forever the thought of zombie cockroaches, here is a little chap who nose you know. This is probably Dictyophara patruelis, a plant hopper.
I hope you don’t have nightmares after all that. Drink some Ovaltine and dream of dragonflies not zombies. Good night all.