Wasp uses venom cocktail to manipulate the behavior of its cockroach prey

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52 Scopus citations


The sting of the parasitoid wasp Ampulex compressa is unusual, as it induces a transient paralysis of the front legs followed by grooming behavior and then by a long-term hypokinesia of its cockroach prey. Because the wasp's goal is to provide a living meal for its newborn larva, the behavioral changes in the prey are brought about by manipulating the host behavior in a way beneficial to the wasp and its offspring. To this end, the wasp injects its venom cocktail with two consecutive stings directly into the host's central nervous system. The first sting in the thorax causes a transient front leg paralysis lasting a few minutes. This paralysis is due to the presence of a venom component that induces a postsynaptic block of central cholinergic synaptic transmission. Following the head sting, dopamine identified in the venom appears to induce 30 min of intense grooming. During the long-term hypokinesia that follows the grooming, specific behaviors of the prey are inhibited while others are unaffected. We propose that the venom represses the activity of head ganglia neurons thereby removing the descending excitatory drive to the thoracic neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-508
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2003


  • Ampulex compressa
  • Grooming
  • Neurotoxins
  • Paralysis
  • Periplaneta americana

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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