Sunday Sketch: Silent but deadly

First instar larvae (i.e. at the very beginning of their development) of the beaded lacewing (Lomamyia latipennis) are quite small in comparison to the termite workers that they prey upon. In order to feed on these termites they employ an attacking strategy in which they back the tip of their abdomen up to a worker and then wave the apex of their abdomen over the termite’s face without actually making any contact. Instead of a physical attack, the larvae produce a chemical that paralyzes the termites so they can be easily eaten. In other words, these larvae use their farts to immobilize their prey! Better yet, when the larvae reach their third instar phase, their larger body size allows them to produce greater quantities of the chemical. So, instead of performing a very targeted attack, they can produce a chemical fart that incapacitates up to six nearby termites. Bon appétit!

Sketch contributed by Karli Chudeau

Fact contributed by Adrian Perez

Source: Johnson, J.B. and Hagen, K.S., 1981. A neuropterous larva uses an allomone to attack termites. Nature289(5797), pp.506-507.

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