fig wasp


fig wasp
a chalcid wasp, Blastophaga psenes, introduced into the U.S. from Europe, that pollinates figs, usually of the Smyrna variety.
[1880-85]

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insect
also called  fig insect 

      any of about 900 species of tiny wasps responsible for pollinating the world's 900 species of figs (see Ficus). Each species of wasp pollinates only one species of fig, and each fig species has its own wasp species to pollinate it. This extraordinary diversity of coevolution (community ecology) between figs and wasps has become so profound that neither organism can exist without the other.

 The fig wasp's life cycle is typified in the caprifig (Ficus carica sylvestris), a wild, inedible fig. Wasps mature from eggs deposited inside the flowering structure of the fig, called the syconium, which looks very much like a fruit. Inside the completely enclosed syconium are the individual flowers themselves. When a wasp egg is deposited in one of the flowers, that flower develops a gall-like structure instead of a seed. The blind, wingless male wasps emerge from the galls and search out one or more galls containing a female, and upon finding one, he chews a hole in the gall and mates with her before she has even hatched. In many cases, the male then digs an escape tunnel for the female. The male then dies, having spent its entire life within the fig. The female emerges later from her gall and proceeds toward the escape tunnel or the eye of the fig (the part opposite the stem end), because she must deposit her eggs in a second fig. In departing, she passes by many male flowers and emerges covered with pollen. During her brief adult life (as short as two days), she flies into the forest to fertilize another fig and deposit another generation of fig wasps.

      The female fig wasp's role in pollinating certain edible figs, especially Smyrna figs (fig) (F. carica), is critical to the fig grower, as most economically valuable figs require fertilization to ripen. Though she cannot lay her eggs within the edible fig (she must lay them at the base of the pistil, and the pistils of cultivated figs are longer than her ovipositor), she carries with her the pollen that fertilizes the figs and causes them to ripen. Unfertilized females perform the same role in pollination.

      Although most figs are tropical, two species of fig wasps are found in North America. The female fig wasp, Blastophaga psenes, about 1.5 mm (0.06 inch) in length, was introduced into the western United States to pollinate the Smyrna fig, a commercially important variety. B. nota, originally found in the Philippines, pollinates the flowers of F. nota.

      The fig wasp family, Agaonidae, belongs to a superfamily of wasps called Chalcidoidea (see chalcid) that includes thousands of species of parasitic wasps.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • fig wasp — fig′ wasp n. ent a chalcid wasp, Blastophaga psenes, that pollinates figs, usu. of the Smyrna variety • Etymology: 1880–85 …   From formal English to slang

  • fig wasp — n. any of a family (Agaonidae) of small wasps living in certain figs, esp. a wasp (Blastophaga psenes) active in the pollination of certain cultivated strains …   English World dictionary

  • Fig wasp — Taxobox name = Fig wasps |220px image caption = Blastophaga psenes regnum = Animalia phylum = Arthropoda classis = Insecta ordo = Hymenoptera subordo = Apocrita superfamilia = Chalcidoidea familia = Agaonidae subdivision ranks = Subfamilies… …   Wikipedia

  • fig wasp — noun : a minute insect (Blastophaga psenes) of the family Agaontidae that breeds in the caprifig and is important as the agent in the process of caprification; broadly : an insect of the family Agaontidae * * * a chalcid wasp, Blastophaga psenes …   Useful english dictionary

  • fig wasp — noun Date: 1883 a minute wasp (Blastophaga psenes of the family Agaontidae) that breeds in the caprifig and is the agent of caprification; broadly any wasp of the same family …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • fig wasp — noun A wasp of the family Agaonidae, some of which pollinate figs …   Wiktionary

  • Wasp — Taxobox name = Wasp image width = 180px image caption = Aleiodes indiscretus parasitizing a gypsy moth caterpillar regnum = Animalia phylum = Arthropoda classis = Insecta ordo = Hymenoptera subdivision ranks = Suborder subdivision = Apocrita See… …   Wikipedia

  • fig — fig1 /fig/, n. 1. any tree or shrub belonging to the genus Ficus, of the mulberry family, esp. a small tree, F. carica, native to southwestern Asia, bearing a turbinate or pear shaped fruit that is eaten fresh, preserved, or dried. 2. the fruit… …   Universalium

  • wasp — (Roget s IV) n. Types of wasps include: common, fossorial, digging, digger, social, solitary, hunting, potter, paper, sand, wood, spider, mud, fig, gall, cuckoo, thread waisted; (mud) dauber, yellow jacket, hornet; see also bee 1 …   English dictionary for students

  • Common fig — Ficus carica Common Fig Common Fig foliage and fruit Conservation status …   Wikipedia


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