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Non-pollinating fig wasps

(Life; Embryophyta (plants); Angiospermae (flowering plants); Eudicotyledons; Order: Rosales; Family: Moraceae; Genus: Ficus)

Interaction of figs and fig wasps

Besides the pollinators there is a suite of non-pollinating fig wasps that also breed in the fig, but which play no role in the pollination process. From the fig’s perspective they are unwanted interlopers. In Africa, as many as 30 species of non-pollinating fig wasp can be associated with a particular fig tree species, as in Ficus thonningii, but more commonly three to fifteen species are associated with each fig species. One group of non-pollinators also enter the fig for egg-laying, and exhibit parallel morphological adaptations to those of the pollinators for easing their passage through the ostiole. Most of the non-pollinators, however, lay eggs by inserting their ovipositor through the fig wall from the outside of the fig. These wasps often have extremely long “tails” (external ovipositors)  the length of which has been evolutionarily determined by wall thickness of their host fig species. Fig size varies tremendously across species, and ranges from smaller than a marble to as large as a tennis ball.


SYCOECINAE: Philocaenus a gall forming non-pollinator that enters the fig through the ostiole to lay eggs.


OTITESELLINAE: Otitesella a gall forming non-pollinator that lays eggs through the fig wall. The ovipositor is concealed within the abdomen.


SYCORYCTINAE: Parasitoid or inquiline non-pollinators that lay eggs through the fig wall.



Sycophaginae: Gall forming non-pollinators that lay eggs through the fig wall early in fig development.

Epichrysomallinae: Gall forming non-pollinators that lay eggs through the fig wall early in fig development.


Eurytomidae: Parasitoids of Epichrysomallinae laying their eggs through the fig wall.




How the mutualism is maintained


Illustrations and photographs © Simon van Noort (Iziko Museums of South Africa).

Web authors Simon van Noort (Iziko South African Museum)

and Jean-Yves Rasplus (INRA, France)


Citation: van Noort, S. & Rasplus, JY. 2024. Figweb: figs and fig wasps of the world. URL: www.figweb.org(Accessed on <day-month-year>).

Copyright 2004-2024 Iziko Museums of South Africa

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