The coffin fly. Image courtesy of Kelsey Bailey.
As you get into your car in the parking lot of the Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake in Los Angeles, you might just be within arm’s reach of cannibals. Not the human kind – but the insect variety.
Inside a wasp that is buzzing around a nearby bush dwells a bug known as the twisted wing parasite. These tiny insects are genetically close to flies and resemble nothing so much as a small black speck. But placing that speck under a microscope reveals huge, orb-like eyes that, as entomologist Emily Hartop puts it, look like sinister purple boysenberries.
Although the twisted wing parasite’s name comes from the seemingly malformed wings of the male of the species, the female has no wings. In fact, she has no legs, not even functional mouthparts – she is literally...