This Insect Protects Its Eggs By Making Them Delicious

By Esther Inglis-Arkell on at

This animal seems to spend its entire life trying to get eaten. Not only does it coat its eggs in substances designed to lure ants to chew on them, but its main defence mechanism as an adult doubles as a salad dressing.

When Extatosoma tiaratum lays it eggs, it gives them a special coating. Some insects coat their eggs with adhesive so they can stick, unnoticed, to the underside of a leaf. Others coat them with bitter or off-puttingly sticky film. This insect candy coats its eggs. It gives them a coating that makes them irresistible to certain ants. The ants pick the eggs up, carry them back to the nest, gnaw off the delicious coating, and throw the eggs on the trash heap. When the young stick insects hatch, they mimic the ants, and have a safe childhood protected by the ant colony.

Extasoma doesn’t stop being delicious when it grows up. Other insects, when threatened, shoot poison, or a combustible combination of materials, at their attackers. Extasoma rears up and squirts out—goo. The goo is best known for smelling like peanut butter, although researchers have mentioned that it also smells a bit like vinegar and toffee. Essentially, the insect dresses itself for its attacker. How this species managed to survive is anyone’s guess, but it makes the world more interesting.

Image: Rosa Pineda