Wasps enter into figs to pollinate flowers, lay eggs and finally die inside.
Reporter: Yueer Wang | Sub-editor: Phuong Thu Nguyen
A video released by Gross Science showed that figs are likely to contain the dead bodies of wasps due to the pollination progress.
Unlike majority of fruits which have seeds coming from flowers, figs are inverted flowers. Its pear-shaped pod traps thousands of flowers in it, which makes them difficult to get pollinated. Therefore, wasps come to help pollinate the flowers in a special way. Pregnant wasps enter into figs from their ostiole, which is the tiny opening on their bottom, and drop their fertilised eggs into as many of female flowers as they can. Along the process, they fertilise the flowers with the pollen they are carrying as well. Sadly, because there is no way out; female wasps will die inside figs after they finish laying eggs.
And this is not the end of the pollination process.
The baby wasps will grow up inside figs, and the male always emerge first. They impregnate female wasps, bore tiny holes through figs’ skin, and finally die inside figs. As for female wasps, they emerge at around the same time when figs start producing pollen. As a result, they pick up pollen and fly out through the holes to start the cycle again.
But during the process, mama wasps and male wasps die inside figs. So, does it mean we are eating the bodies of them when we bite into a fig?
The answer is that we are very unlikely to have the chance of eating wasps. There are more than 750 species of figs in the world, but most of them are not commercially available. The fresh figs which are sold in supermarkets are “common figs”, and “they are parthenocarpic,” said Niki Lawrence, senior lecturer at University of Westminster. “In other words, they don’t need to be pollinated to produce the flesh of a ripe fig.”
But one does wonder what if the figs are not parthenocarpic as producers describe, and contain dead wasps. “It is not necessary a bad thing,” said Claire Robertson, Honorary Secretary, Association for Nutrition, “they are going to add more fibre and more protein.” Caroline Smith, senior lecture, University of Westminster, added: “humans are omnivores and can adapt to a large range of diets.”
The possibility that a ripe fig contains wasps is low, because “any wasps are broken down and used by the plant to make up the fruit as figs develop,” said Niki.
Based on the scientific and expert opinions, people can enjoy eating figs without worrying about wasps’ issue. And from the perspective of nutrition, figs are great source for vitamins and fibre. According to Claire, Vitamin A is fantastic for eye health and fibre is useful for helping people prevent colon cancer.
Figs are good for health, and they don’t contain physical wasps. Let’s enjoy the soft and slight crunchy figs!