What can parasitoid wasps teach us about decision-making in insects?
Millions of years of co-evolution have driven parasites to display very complex and exquisite strategies to manipulate the behaviour of their hosts. However, although parasite-induced behavioural manipulation is a widespread phenomenon, the underlying neuronal mechanisms are only now beginning to be deciphered. Here, we review recent advancements in the study of the mechanisms by which parasitoid wasps use chemical warfare to manipulate the behaviour of their insect hosts. We focus on a particular case study in which a parasitoid wasp (the jewel wasp Ampulex compressa) performs a delicate brain surgery on its prey (the American cockroach Periplaneta americana) to take away its motivation to initiate locomotion. Following a brief background account of parasitoid wasps that manipulate host behaviour, we survey specific aspects of the unique effects of the A. compressa venom on the regulation of spontaneous and evoked behaviour in the cockroach host.