Millions of years ago, when dinosaurs walked the Earth, a wasp and a fig tree teamed up for survival. But this isn’t your typical pollination story. No, no, no; these wasps—smaller than a gnat—embark on extraordinary quests in order to fulfill their life’s work! They have something to show us all about how to find success in our own lives.

Whether enjoyed fresh or in a cookie, figs are a jammy, sweet treat that’s the perfect example of the benefits we can get when we evolve together! We each have something we can offer one another, even if it seems a little strange, as is the relationship between these figs and wasps.

Image: figs on cheese and bread!

Source: Pixabay

Where there’s a wasp, there’s a way!

Well, at least if you’re a fig tree.

You may have never given figs a second glance before, but it turns out, these are some of the strangest, most delicious bits of our world you’ll ever delight in! With over 750 different species—half of them coevolving with their very own tiny wasps—a unique way of flowering, and sap that can burn you if you try to taste them too early, they’re about to be one of the easiest ways to find wonder in your life, every day. 1

While some fig trees can self-pollinate (which are the ones you’ve likely enjoyed before), the other half of the species relies on their own special wasps for survival!

After hatching in another fig, these super tiny, single-track-minded, already pregnant female wasps crawl into another inflorescence—that’s right, figs aren’t fruits, they’re clusters of flowers! 2—in order to lay their eggs. But while figs need these wasps to enter in order to be pollinated, getting out is a whole other story.

Every female wasp who lays her eggs in a fig will never leave, but you’d never know if you bit into it. Some figs are set up with the ability to dissolve the wasps!

Their relationship is one of the most interesting pairs of coevolution out there! And it has a whole lot to teach us about how we can better set up our own relationships.

Nicole Jolly of True Food TV brings us an up-close look at their fantastical world to clue us in on the tricks of this non-fruit at a fig farm in Pennsylvania.

Check it out!

Wheww! Isn’t that just amazing? Nicole Jolly and her team at True Food TV always take us on some of the most amazing journeys. You can check out more over on their channel, or head to this next article to check out one of my all-time favorite tales! (It’s the SWEETEST!)

15 minutes

The Daring Tradition of a Very Special Lemon Farmer

There is a remarkable person teetering on cliff edges to get to the fruit of a tree who has something to teach us all.  Gigino the Lemon Man is 80-years-old and may be the best (and last) person to show us why some traditions can add all the sweetness we need to life. 

Read More

Filling those little niches

You have to hand it to them: in a world of pollinators, fig wasps have monopolized their very own market. They found where they fit! (Literally! Well, okay, kind of… aside from their wings and antennae.)

As with any of the most inspirational and successful people and projects we’ve featured on EWC, these wasps have fared extremely well for over 65 million years by committing to an act that veers from the paths others have chosen. But they didn’t do it alone, of course. Our strange fig friends evolved right along with them.

Can we learn something from this unique pairing? Maybe the lesson, or lifehack, if you will, lies in the act of evolution itself. After seeing these two very different species work together to fill their own unique, special needs, it’s hard not to imagine that we’d find more success in our own lives if we made sure we had these relationships, as well.

Whether it’s the partners we choose in love, life, or business, they’re often the best when we can evolve together.

Another of my favorite examples of coevolution is the relationship between a squid and a bacterium that makes it look like the moon. Check this next article out to discover how this unique relationship works!

7 minutes

The Bacteria that Lights Up This Squid’s Life

The relationship between the bobtail squid and this bacteria is the definition of a healthy relationship. And maybe we can all learn a little something from them!

Read More

As always, my friend, stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

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  1. Padmanaban, Deepa. “A Tale of Loyalty and Betrayal, Starring Figs and Wasps.” Bbc.Com, 2016, Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.
  2. Kline, Katie. “The Story of the Fig and Its Wasp | EcoTone: News and Views on Ecological Science.” Esa.Org, 2012, Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.
  3. TRUE FOOD TV. “FIG | How Does It Grow?” YouTube, 11 Sept. 2020, Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.