The females, pregnant and loaded with pollen, fly to other fig trees and crawl into the fruits to lay their eggs, beginning the cycle anew. The catch? Female figs don't have receptacles for wasp eggs, but the wasps are tricked into climbing in anyway.
As the female wasp slides through the narrow passage in the fig her wings are ripped off (egg laying is a one-way mission) and while she is unsuccessful in laying her eggs, she successfully pollinates the female flower.
The now-flightless wasp is trapped inside the ripening fruit, where it is digested by special enzymes within the fig. According to fossil records, this process has been going on virtually unchanged for the past 34 million years. What a weird and wonderful symbiotic relationship!
More on figs and wasps:
• Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Figs - The Atlantic
• Edible Symbiosis - Oscillator
• How fig trees are pollinated - Figweb.org
• World's Oldest Fig Wasp Discovered - Live Science
Had you ever heard of this? Does it change how you feel about figs?
Related: How to Select and Store Figs
(Image: Emily Ho)
(Originally published September 14, 2010)