Did You See This?

Black and Yellow

Up close and personal with a wasp’s birth.

Riddle us this: Is the video above fascinating or disgusting? Trick question. It’s both. The awesome/repulsive footage—which shows a parasitoid cotesia urabae wasp larva exiting its caterpillar host’s body— is one of the remarkable winners of Nikon’s fifth annual Small World In Motion contest. And it’s really worth a watch.

A parasitoid is a creature that, unlike a parasite, eventually sterilizes, kills, or, occasionally, eats its host. In the case of the cotesia urabae, it opts for sterilization, leaving its host, a uraba lugens, permanently disoriented. That kind of thing can happen when something inserts an ovipositor in you and leaves up to 400 eggs behind. In the case of cotesia urabae, though, only one larva develops in each caterpillar.

Even before fully exiting the caterpillar’s body, the larva weaves its own cocoon, where it completes its development. And the creepy-crawly results make for an awesome video, taking third place in Nikon’s competition. It was produced by Gonzalo Avila of University of Aukland, New Zealand. The full list of winners was announced this week. Other favorites include one that shows microscopic views of soap (seriously) by Dr. John Hart University of Colorado Boulder, and another of penicilliumfungi, submitted by Mr. Wim van Egmond of Micropolitan Museum.