The Great Promise of Voodoo Wasps

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Researchers have sequenced the genome of three species of parasitic “voodoo wasps.” Since the tiny creatures feed on insects that plague crops, scientists believe they could serve as an alternative to chemical pesticides. If that weren’t cool enough news on its own, consider their method of killing, which sounds like something out of a sci-fi film. A zombie flick, to be precise. The wasps get their Voodoo nickname from their habit of zombifying their prey:

The three wasps all belong to the Nasonia genus and are strictly speaking “parasitoid” species, meaning that they lay their eggs inside the paralysed bodies of other insects, keeping them alive long enough for the wasp larvae to grow and mature into adults as they feed off the living flesh of their “zombie” host.

Said lead scientist John Werren in a statement, “If we can harness their full potential, they would be vastly preferable to chemical pesticides which broadly kill or poison many organisms in the environment, including us.”

News of non-toxic pesticides is always welcome, but these ideas rarely take off on commercial scale, thanks in no small part to the mammoth chemical pesticide lobby. We recently reported on Obama’s nomination of Islam “Isi” Siddiqui, executive of the pesticide industry lobbying group CropLife America (CLA), as chief agricultural negotiator for the office of the US Trade Representative. When Michelle Obama announced plans to plant an organic vegetable garden on the White House grounds, CLA members wrote her a letter saying the thought of chemical-free veggies made them “shudder.” Touchy, touchy. Isn’t it fun to imagine how they might react to a flock of chemical-free zombifying wasps?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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