Menu

an amazing tale about fig wasps

Heard this the other day about figs and had to tell someone.

Figs are pretty amazing. They have many thousands of flowers but chances are you’ve never seen them. They’re hidden away inside the fig fruit and are pollinated by tiny fig wasps. Most of the 750 species of fig have their very own species of fig wasp which in turn is completely dependent on that fig species for food and shelter. It’s where they will grow up, meet their partner and die.

Fig_wasps

It all starts when a female wasp finds an unripe fig. She crawls through a tiny hole in the fig (opposite the stem end, you can see the mark on fresh figs), to get to the flowers in the centre of the fig. It’s a tight squeeze and she usually has her wings and antennae ripped off in the process.

When she gets through she lays her eggs and pollinates the flowers before she dies – fruit that isn’t pollinated won’t mature and her young will die. The fig detects the eggs' presence and makes a nutritious gall around them. When they hatch the wasp larvae live inside the gall, being fed by the fig tree. Then, once they’re mature, the wasps emerge from their galls into the central cavity of the fig. It's here that they mate. The males then work together to chew a tunnel through the fig wall. After this is complete, they die.

Fig_wasp_emerges

The females collect some pollen from the fig flowers inside the fig and then use the tunnel made by the guys to leave and set off in search of another fig in which to lay their eggs. And then it all happens again...

Amazing eh?

PS this shouldn't put you off eating figs - most cultivated forms are self fertilizing so no wasps get involved. More's the pity.

(by Jan)