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Sex and Drama

Sex and Drama
Photo Information
Copyright: Grzegorz Wieczorek (red45) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2636 W: 74 N: 9091] (31094)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2010-04-04
Categories: Insects
Camera: Canon EOS 400D, Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO DG Macro, Kenko ext. tubes 12+20+36mm
Exposure: f/8, 1/350 seconds
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2010-04-04 9:17
Viewed: 8088
Favorites: 1 [view]
Points: 26
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
My last spring pictures of flowers were nice, but I believe everyone want to see sex and drama more ;-)

This is photo from today's morning and I must say one thing - I'm really very proud of it!

For first look this is an ordinary macro of specie of small bee. But look at insect's abdomen! There is pair of strange looking wings and rest of body of very small member of Strepsiptera (twisted-winged parasites) order. To make strange things even stranger, this tiny insect doesn't sit and rest - it is making love with female, which spends its entire life inside body of bee.

As said David Grimaldi, entomology curator of Museum of Natural History in NYC, "These are really, truly enigmatic insects. They break all the rules."

It is hard to spot male Strepsiptera because they're tiny and live mostly not more than one day. It is impossible to spot female Strepsiptera because they spend all life inside body of host. So what do you think about spotting and capturing moment of mating of this enigmatic couple? Now you can imagine why I'm so proud today :-)

The Strepsiptera (known in older literature as twisted-winged parasites) are an order of insects with ten families making up about 600 species. The early stage larvae and the short-lived adult males are free-living but most of their life is spent as endoparasites in other insects such as bees, wasps, leafhoppers, silverfish, and cockroaches.

Male Strepsiptera have wings, legs, eyes, and antennae, and look like flies, though they generally have no useful mouthparts. Many of their mouth parts are modified into sensory structures. Adult males are very short-lived (usually less than five hours) and do not feed. The known females, in all families except the Mengenillidae, never leave their hosts and are neotenic in form, lacking wings and legs. Virgin females release a pheromone which the males search for. In the Stylopidia the female has its anterior region extruding out of the host body and the male mates by rupturing the female's brood canal opening which lies between the head and prothorax. Sperm passes through the opening in a process termed hypodermic insemination. Each female produces many thousands of triungulin larvae that emerge from the brood opening on the head, which protrudes outside the host body. These larvae have legs (which lack trochanters) and actively search out new hosts. Their hosts include members belonging to the orders Zygentoma, Orthoptera, Blattodea, Mantodea, Heteroptera, Hymenoptera, and Diptera. In the Strepsipteran family Myrmecolacidae, the males parasitize ants while the females parasitize Orthoptera.

Strepsiptera eggs hatch inside the female and the planidium larvae can move around freely within the female's haemocoel, which is unique to these animals. The female has a brood canal that communicates with the outside world and it is through this the larvae escape. The larvae are very active, as they only have a limited amount of time to find a host before they exhaust their food reserves. These first-instar larvae have stemmata (simple, single-lens eyes) and once they latch onto a host they enter it by secreting enzymes that soften the cuticle, usually in the abdominal region of the host. Some species have been reported to enter the eggs of hosts. Larvae of Stichotrema dallatorreanurn Hofeneder from Papua New Guinea were found to enter their orthopteran host's tarsus (foot). Once inside the host, they undergo hypermetamorphosis and become a less mobile legless larval form. They induce the host to produce a bag like structure inside which they feed and grow. This structure, made from host tissue, protects them from the immune defences of the host. Larvae go through four more instars and in each moult there is separation of the older cuticle but no discarding ("apolysis without ecdysis") leading to multiple layers being formed around the larvae. Male larvae produce pupae after the last moult, but females directly become neotenous adults. The colour and shape of the host's abdomen may be changed and the host usually becomes sterile. The parasites then undergo holometabolous metamorphosis to become adults. Adult males emerge out of the host body while females stay inside. Females may occupy up to 90% of the abdominal volume of their hosts.

Male Strepsiptera have eyes unlike those of any other insect, resembling the schizochroal eyes found in the trilobite group known as Phacopida. Instead of a compound eye consisting of hundreds of ommatidia, each with a large lens and capable of producing a partial image, the strepsipteran eyes consist of only a few dozen ommatidia separated by cuticle and/or setae, giving the eye a blackberry-like appearance.

Multiple females may be seen within a stylopized host. Males are rarely seen. They may sometimes be seen at light traps or may be lured using cages containing virgin females.

Strepsiptera may alter the behaviour of their hosts. Myrmecolacids may cause their ant hosts to climb up the tips of grass leaves, possibly to increase the spread of female pheromones to increase the chances of being located by males.

cataclysta, nikosrio, cedryk, jlinaresp, flashpoint, cloud, Silvio2006, saeedabbasi, Argus, boreocypriensis, siggi, Miss_Piggy, MMM has marked this note useful
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To cedryk: Wachlarzoskrzydlered45 1 04-04 11:27
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Critiques [Translate]

Czesc Grzesiu
Wiosna wspaniala, choc akurat w tej chwili jakby sie troche chmurzy ;-) Fotka fajna, nigdy nie widzialem Strepsiptera na zywo. Widze ze ty tez miales dzisiaj dobry dzien. Czekam na wiecej

Hello Grzegorz,
indeed very strange and rare, well done
TFS, regards,

  • cedryk Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 967 W: 50 N: 1722] (5270)
  • [2010-04-04 9:50]
  • [+]

Kurcze, ty to masz talent do tych roznych owadzich parazytoidow, ze przypomne zdjecie bleskotki z zeszlego roku. No jestem w szoku, nigdy nie widzialem na zywo wachlarzoskrzydlych! Wiesz, ze kiedys uwazane byly za jedna z rodzin chrzaszczy? Podobnie jak one maja pierwsza pare skrzydel przeksztalcona w twarde struktury. No i ta fascynujaca biologia. To naprawde niezwykle zwierzeta. Szczere gratulacje. Co do pszczoly to wyglada mi to na przedstawiciela rodzaju Andrena, ale glowy nie dam.

Hi Grzegorz,
Incredible, if I do not see, I do not beleive ... and if I do not read, do not understand! ... great job! that things that have the nature! TFS, Regards, Jesús

ciao Gregz!
very interesting note to this macro, which helps us to discover this parasite really lethal for many insects ... I congratulate for this extraordinary capture not easy to make
Happy Easter to you and your loved ones

  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2010-04-04 12:11]

Hello Greg,
Yes, surely you can be proud at such a phenomenon. Never heard of and seen a thing like this. Beautiful sharp detailed photo in great natural colours. Good POV and DOF.

Hi Grzegorz
A fantastic capture of this bee parasite. I love the shimmer of colour on the parasite's wings. Great detail and well exposed. Very good notes too - you have every right to be proud of this unusual shot!
Kind Regards

  • Great 
  • cloud Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 497 W: 111 N: 1535] (9539)
  • [2010-04-04 14:20]

Nisamowita rzecz, gdy przeczytalem notke to bardziej zainteresowal mnie ten widok. Tyle niezwyklosci jest w tej przyrodzie.
Pozdrawiam, Pawel

Ciao Grzegorz, fantastic macro, amazing capture of strange action, seems that little Strepsiptera make love with bee, but female is inside!
Superb details and splendid sharpness, wonderful light and colors, very well done my friend, congratulations, ciao Silvio

Hi dear Grzegorz,
Great macro with excellent details.
Nice sharpness and great light too.
Very well captured

Kind regards

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2010-04-05 12:07]

Hello Greg,
Congratualtions on taking such fine macro of the relationship between the host bee and its strepsipterid parasite. The POV shows tboth insects with fine detail in great sharpness and colours against a pleasing neutral Bg.
This is an excellent fine contribution to TN accompanied by a great informative note.
Thanks and best regards,

Hi MF Greg,

This is realy great macro capture showing a Strepsipteran attached to abdomen of a bee. A really great scientific rocord indeed. Great note too.
TFS and have a nice night MF!


  • Great 
  • siggi Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3097 W: 109 N: 12399] (52850)
  • [2010-04-05 23:41]

Hallo Grzegorz,
To sie naprawde nazywa szczescie cos takiego zauwarzyc i tak fotografowac.Cudowny opis -naprawde bardzo interesujace !
Pozdrawiam Siggi

Hallo Greg
Absolutely wonderful details captured. Focus, sharpness and viewpoint is just great. The sandy texture of the surface is beautiful and highlights both insects well and brings out all their striking features and warm colours to the best. I enjoyed looking at this well presented macro. Thanks for sharing. Best regards.

  • Great 
  • MMM Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1114 W: 0 N: 2546] (11425)
  • [2010-04-08 5:46]

Hi Grzegorz
Great closed up.Excellent pov and razor sharp image.The detail in yoour image are amsaing.Great light and colors also
TFS Michel

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