Wasps and Figs By Mrs Versa West
I like figs, and like most of us all I enjoy sitting under my back-yard fig tree, embracing my individual freedom, or what freedom I used to have before we in Melbourne lost everything. And I imagine that the anti-freedom police will be here soon to cut down my metaphorical fig tree. Shades of Adam and Eve! Anyway, blow me over, no easy task given my whale-like weight, there are wasps who live in figs. Didn’t know that, but now I do.
“If you’re a fig lover, this next sentence may be hard for you to swallow. The figs you’re eating could have a dead wasp stuck in them. I know that probably makes you squirm, but it sounds more dramatic than it is. You may think the idea of wasps inside a fig is gross, but it’s actually pretty amazing to see how nature knows exactly what it needs to do to allow both plant and insect species to survive. Figs and fig wasps have a mutually beneficial relationship — something that’s officially called mutualism — that developed over millions of years of evolution. They need each other to survive. Fig wasps help pollinate figs and, in turn, the figs provide a safe place for the wasps to lay their eggs. This relationship is crucial to a balanced ecosystem and is also crucial to you enjoying a fresh fig or that fig jam you love. So, don’t let this tidbit of information make you shy away from eating figs. The fruit, or technically flower, is full of resistant starch, potassium and other nutrients such as magnesium and choline, that help keep you healthy. Plus, you’re probably already eating a lot of bugs without even realizing it. Read on to see what I mean. Why Do Figs Need Wasps?
Figs are often eaten as a fruit, but they’re actually inverted flowers with a fascinating biology. Unlike other flowers that bloom and expand outwardly, fig flowers bloom inside the fig’s pod. Because the flowers are on the inside, they require a special system for pollination — and that’s where the female fig wasps come in. Each flower produces a single fruit called an achene that’s composed of a single shell and a hard seed. Because several flowers grow inside the fig pod, there are also several of these hard-shelled fruits. That’s what gives fresh figs their seeded inside and signature crunch. Female fig wasps enter a fig through small passageways called ostioles. The ostioles are so narrow that the fig wasps actually lose their wings and antenna when traveling through them. Because of this, they can get in the figs, but they usually cannot get out. That’s OK with them, though, because their sole purpose is reproduction. There are female and male figs. The female figs are the ones we eat, while the male figs serve solely as a place for fig wasps to reproduce. Once inside a male fig, the females lay their eggs. Eventually the eggs hatch and then the baby male wasps dig tunnels through the fig so that the baby female wasps, covered in pollen, can escape and continue the cycle in another fig. However, if a fig wasp enters a female fig, she can’t lay her eggs. Instead, she pollinates the flowers inside the fig, but then stays behind, living out the rest of her maximum 48-hour life cycle, and dying inside the fig.”
God has been truly amazing in creating natural wonders where nothing goes to waste. And, I don’t mind eating insects while I devour my figs. Thus, I will continue to sit under my fig tree, eating insect skeletons. And, why not, for what faces us now are campaigns of fear to freak out populations, and control their minds, without even yet moving to mind controlling drugs, making us all, all the little people, little more than fig wasps, anyway.