The tiny creature that invented arts and crafts before us

A small species of parasitoid wasp has found a way to make felt. It uses the fabric to entomb spiders in homemade coffins

This tiny wasp invented felting before humans did. 

The female Clistopyga wasp stings and paralyses an unsuspecting spider, then places her larvae in its nest. Once her larvae are inside, she closes the nest, and the hatching larvae then suck all the life out of the paralysed spider.

The female does all this using a long organ called an ovipositor. Insects normally use their ovipositors to lay eggs, but this wasp has found an additional use for it.

Writing in the journal Biology Letters, researchers found that the female seals the spider's nest by making felt out of its silk, using her ovipositor. No other insects are known to felt like this. Watch the video above to see the wasp in action.

"The similarity with the human felting needle is striking, both concerning its structure and function, and it even serves the same purpose, namely to entangle fibres," says co-author Niclas Fritzén of the University of Turku in Finland.

Fritzén says the wasp's ovipositor probably did not evolve for this purpose.

"This is another beautiful textbook case of how a new behaviour has evolved from a structure originally adapted for something completely different," he says. "Teeth at the ovipositor tip have been postulated to originally constitute adaptations for sawing into hard substrates. These have been modified through natural selection."

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