A Wasp Mom’s Gift: Blankets of Bacteria
This short video explores the mechanism by which a beewolf wasp passes antibiotic-producing bacteria to its offspring.
The beewolf (Philanthus triangulum) is a digger wasp that preys on honey bees. A beewolf mother stings a honey bee and deposits an egg on the bee’s paralyzed body. When the beewolf larva hatches, it can feed on the honey bee. Scientists discovered that the beewolf’s antennae are packed with bacteria called Streptomyces, which produce a variety of antibiotic substances. The beewolf spreads the antibiotic-producing bacteria on the cocoon in which the larva develops. In this way, the larva is protected from being infected by harmful bacteria and fungi.
This video is part of the series I Contain Multitudes, hosted by science journalist Ed Yong.
antenna, antibiotic, cocoon, digger wasp, insect, microbiome, Streptomyces, symbiosis
Engl, Tobias, Johannes Kroiss, Marco Kai, Taras Y. Nechitaylo, Aleš Svatoš, and Martin Kaltenpoth. “Evolutionary stability of antibiotic protection in a defensive symbiosis.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115, 9 (2018): E2020–E2029. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1719797115.