Fig Wasp

Fig Wasp

The larval stage of fig wasps, which belong to the subfamily Chalcidoidea, takes place inside figs. The majority serve as pollinators, while the remainder is scavengers. The pollinators are in the family Agaonidae, whereas the parasitoids are in the superfamily Chalcidoidea. All fig wasps, not just the ones responsible for pollination, create galls; claims that the non-pollinating species are parasitoids are, at best, unconvincing.

Life Cycle

The fig wasp’s life cycle is intricately entwined with the fig tree’s. Two types of wasps live in a given tree: pollinators and non-pollinators. The fig tree is involved in an obligate nursery pollination mutualism with the wasps that pollinate it, while the wasps that don’t pollinate it eat the plant’s nectar. However, these groups share strikingly similar life cycles.

The following is a generalisation of the life cycle of a pollinating fig wasp; the specifics will depend on the species in question. An adult female pollinator wasp begins the life cycle by entering the immature “fruit” (really a stem-like structure known as a syconium) through a small natural aperture (the ostiole) and laying her eggs inside. 

Some Additional Features To Identify Them

She loses her wings and most of her antennae as she tries to force her way through the ostiole. The female has small spines on the underside of her head that help her grip the walls of the ostiole as she makes her way through. The female fig tree spreads pollen from the original host fig tree when she lays her eggs. Because of this, some of the female flowers that grow on the fig’s inside surface are fertilised and can produce fruit. Female wasps only live long enough to reproduce and pollinate an area before they perish. 

Several non-pollinating wasp species lay their eggs in figs after pollination, just before the fruit hardens. These wasps may be parasitic on figs or the pollination wasps themselves. The wasp eggs hatch and the larvae develop as the fig grows. Mating with a female is the first thing a mature male does after emerging from the pupal stage, and it happens even before the female hatches. And as a result, the female will come out of it with a baby. 

How Do Males Behave?

Males of several species cannot fly or live away from the fig for long periods because they lack wings. After mating, the female wasps leave the fig through a tunnel dug by the male.

Male wasps don’t make it long after emerging from fig. The females pick up pollen as they make their way out. Next, the females fly to a different tree of the same species to lay their eggs.