Are there really dead wasps in your figs? | MNN - Mother Nature Network
If, like me, you think of the year in relation to the fruits that are ripe at various times, you know that we just passed peach and plum time and that. A researcher describes species of fig tree parasites which compete and even prey upon the fig wasps during the many phases of the. “Figs and the wasps that pollinate them present one of biologists' favorite examples of a beneficial relationship between two different species.
After pollination, there are several species of non-pollinating wasps which deposit their eggs before the figs harden.
These wasps act as parasites to either the fig or possibly the pollinating wasps. As the fig develops, the wasp eggs hatch and develop into larvae.
The males of many species lack wings and are unable to survive outside the fig for a sustained period of time. After mating, a male wasp begins to dig out of the fig, creating a tunnel through which the females escape. Once out of the fig, the male wasps quickly die. The females find their way out, picking up pollen as they do. The E phase consists of seed dispersal. The figs are eaten by monkeys, rodents, bats, peccaries and many other animals. Almost all forest-dwelling vertebrates feed on figs as part of their diet.
F phase Palmieri has now proposed a new phase in addition to the five phases of the classic fig-wasp lifecycle, which has been studied for 50 years. They manage to insert their eggs into figs without performing the biological role of pollination.
These figs were discarded and left out of the research. In some cases, larvae that were almost the same size as the fig had eaten almost its entire contents. In the article just published, I describe insects belonging to five orders and 24 different families that are not fig wasps but that also interact with figs, performing different functions.
Some rely on fallen figs to complete their development. All the insects identified have representatives in both categories except for ten wasp species belonging to three families that are not fig wasps but that bear some resemblance to them.
New phase proposed in the relationship between figs and wasps | AGÊNCIA FAPESP
All ten are early fig interlopers that oviposit in figs and the larvae of which compete directly with those of fig wasps for food and space inside the fig or simply feed on them, leaving the fig when they reach adulthood. In the article, Palmieri describes the modus operandi of several early fig interlopers in detail. One is Lissocephala, a genus of flies that lay eggs in the ostiole at the same time as the original female wasp is entering the fig. The fly larvae migrate to the interior of the fig and feed exclusively on yeast and bacteria brought inside by the pollinating wasp.
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The flies finish their development inside the fig and leave by the exit hole previously chewed in the fig wall by male wasps. Butterflies and moths are the most aggressive group of insects in terms of the damage to figs. They lay eggs in the fig wall. In the C phase, their larvae bore through the fig wall and feed indiscriminately on fig pulp, wasps and seeds.
The larvae destroy the hanging fig and crawl out to pupate in cocoons attached to branches of the tree. In the case of fallen fig fauna, Palmieri explained, the category comprises various organisms that feed on the fleshy parts or seeds of ripe figs not consumed by fruit-eating vertebrates.
They take advantage of the window of opportunity created by the figs that fall under the parent tree in the F phase. Fallen fig fauna, which includes some ants, butterflies and bugs, consists mainly of beetles that feed on fruit remains.
Beetles take advantage of the fig development cycle in various ways. Some colonize figs on the tree in the early C phase. Their larvae grow inside the figs and stay there when the ripe fruit falls to the ground. They then migrate to the soil, where they dig holes and pupate in cocoons. In addition to the evolutionary implications of pollination mutualism, an additional factor relating to the success of the odd fig species is probably the highly diversified fauna of insects associated with fig trees, such as nonpollinating wasp species.
It was once common to find small pot-bound specimens of the glossy oval-leafed India rubber tree in many homes and offices. Fashion has seen this species displaced by tub specimens of the larger-leafed fiddle-leaf fig, Ficus lyrata, and by Ficus benjamina, which has small wavy-edged leaves.
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The latter has become popular in the foyers of office buildings and the atria of shopping malls. In a small number of public and private gardens around Auckland can be found arresting specimens of a deciduous fig, Ficus auriculata, which has leaves the size of dinner plates and doughnut-sized figs sprouting directly from the trunk and main branches below.
To anchor its stems securely to these hard surfaces the plant uses sticky secretions of sap exuded from the flattened tips of short specialised roots which spring from the stems.
Occasionally the plant produces pale purplish-brown figs which look like elongated versions of the edible fig. Curiously, while it is the most familiar fig species, it is also the least typical in having palmate leaves—like a maple—rather than the smooth, simple ovate leaves that are typical of so many species of Ficus opposite, below. Perhaps our ancestors attempted such methods in order to overcome a horticultural quandary: The galls are hard and gritty, and the fact that they contain insects spoils the palatability of the fruit to say nothing of its desirability.
Such figs still contain seeds, but they are not viable. It is not recorded when this sport was discovered, but all modern domestic figs—including the varieties available in New Zealand—are parthenocarpic cultivars presumably developed from this stock.
So when you bite into a sweet, ripe fig this summer, you need have no fear that among the seeds you crunch some will be moving. But if your preference is dried figs. For even parthenocarpic fig cultivars still attract fig wasps. For the Moreton Bay fig wasp, though, a kinder fate is in store.
But not necessarily those of the domestic fig, for in Paradise Lost. In the Old Testament, the fig was a symbol of prosperity and contentment. Fig trees also symbolised political security. It was a fig tree that Jesus cursed on the road to Bethany for lacking fruit, while the prophet Jeremiah compared those who lacked faith to a basket of rotten figs.
Figs are famously associated with the death of Cleopatra. After the demise of her lover, Antony, Cleopatra supposedly committed suicide by clutching poisonous asps to her breast. Legend has it that the serpents were smuggled into her boudoir in a basket of figs.
A fragment of text attributed to the Greek Menander B.