Meet the Zombies

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.

WaspLNEC260613Quite 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.

Polycanthagynaerythromelas Polycanthagynaerythromelas2

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.

Dictyophara-patruelis-2 Dictyophara-patruelisFound right outside our front door this morning. What a treat to wake up to.

I hope you don’t have nightmares after all that. Drink some Ovaltine and dream of dragonflies not zombies. Good night all.

19 thoughts on “Meet the Zombies

  1. OMG, Andrew, nature is so unfeeling and ‘anything goes’ type of thing, for survival. Things being eaten from the inside while still alive is a virtual horror story, which if transferred to human terms would turn anyone into a jibbering wreck. But it’s life and death, And having read Steve’s comment, I shall be so, so GOOD (from now on!!) for I have no desire to come back as parasitoid food. (could hardly type it!!) 😉 All were such great photo’s, I just tuned my mind to the ‘off’ button, singing ‘la la la’ 😉 xPenx

  2. It’s morning here, so it’s quite put me off my Wheetabix! I shall be fine for my Horlicks this evening – you can keep the Ovaltine.
    Very graphic today. Lovely little beasties and wonderful commentary.

  3. It’s a wasp eat roach world out there folks. If you are very bad you may come back as parasitoid food. The horror stories that make up the natural world must be what drove Walt Disney and company to the need for opiates. All the images are very fine.
    Boris had a sister, Andrew?

  4. Stunning photographs as usual Andrew! I absolutely love the colours you manage to capture, they are so beautiful. That was quite the lovely story re: the cockroach and the wasp, I especially liked the bit about how they eat the insides in the correct order to maximise the life of the roach. I’m shuddering just writing that.
    Although, I must admit, they do come in handy. We have wasps in our backyard who did the exact thing to a huge infestation of black caterpillars last summer. They laid their eggs inside them…etc…(can’t write it again!) and all that was left behind was the empty husks of the caterpillars, clinging to the leaves!

    • Do you have any photos of the wasps & caterpillars Jayde? They sound very interesting. Best not to get too close to the wasps unless you know they are non-aggressive.

      • No I don’t, but I shall keep an eye out this spring for them 🙂 The wasps don’t seem too aggressive, I discovered just the other day that there are about five nests right above my broccoli plants!
        They gave me a fright but they didn’t seem bothered by me being there. I’ll see if I can grab a snap when it stop raining!

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