I have just rudimentary knowledge about the mutualism of figs and wasps and would like to know how this works step by step. Also how do humans use this mutualism? Do they support or hinder it at some points?

  • $\begingroup$ might help to define "mutualism" and add some links so that others can follow your question...it would definitely strengthen it $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Aspergirl89 Among different fig species some are monoecious (hermaphrodite) and some are gynodioecious (hermaphrodite and female flowers on separate plant). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficus#Fig_fruit_and_reproduction_syste‌​m. Thanks for knocking me, I didnot knew this $\endgroup$
    – user25568
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 10:27
  • $\begingroup$ I've found something useful here : books.google.co.in/…, on the google book Diversity and Evolutionary Biology of Tropical Flowers/ Peter K. Endress $\endgroup$
    – user25568
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 12:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Aspergirl89 As the question stands, It is unlikely that you will get a satisfactory answer. I think it would help a lot, if you worked on your question instead of offering a bounty. Give more information what you already know about mutualism and then be more specific in what additional information you need. $\endgroup$
    – Thawn
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Thawn the bounty was started by me. However if I've a satisfactory answer even 30 yrs later; I'll post that. $\endgroup$
    – user25568
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


Ficus sp. (various sorts of figs); have a close relation with a sort of Wasp's reproduction.

Tiny flowers of Ficus are enclosed inside a hollow, pear-shaped concave special-type of inflorescence, also called hypanthodium (term commonly used in flower-stage) or Syconus(term commonly used for fruit stage) when flower stage sometimes c ( from outside it looks like a single fruit but it is not).

There is a very narrow entry-hole or orifice at the apical portion of the inflorescence.

Inside the inflorescence, there are 3 types of flowers. 1. Male flowers, 2. Female-flowers, and 3. 'Gall-flowers' those are assigned as female flowers but their 'style' is much shorter.

Male flowers located towards the orifice, whereas female and gall-flowers locates in deeper regions.

Blastophaga, a genus of wasp, brings in required pollen, also called gall-wasp, lay eggs inside figs.

To do that, they enter inside the fig inflorescence, lay eggs on these dwarf 'gall flowers' using ovipositor.

The eggs develop larvae, which fed on some ovules, and form pupa. When the pupa-stage develop into mature wasps, the try to crawl-out from the orifice, they brush against the male flowers.

This pollen-laden insect when enter in another fresh fg, it also pollinate that-fig.

Image of gall-wasp life cycle from Encyclopedia Britannica

Image URL : https://media1.britannica.com/eb-media/17/24017-004-98EF07A1.jpg .

Image Page-Source: https://www.britannica.com/animal/fig-wasp

Source: College Botany, Vol-1 / Gangulee, Das, Datta; New Central Book Agency.

P.S: I think my answer is NOT satisfactory enough

This question require more scientific details.

Widely known fact is, fig-wasps pollinate figs. But really there is a lack of detailed information like does the mother-insect die inside the fig and only the young insect go-out? or the mother insect come out from fig after laying eggs? if the larvae eat the ovules then isn't it harmful to the fig plant at any extent? How female-figs (in dimorphic members) are pollinated... does the wasp travels from one fig to another? When the young wasp come out from the fig it certainly take some months to reach maturation to lay eggs. Within that period does the pollens sticked in their body , and viable to germinate on stigma? There are many sorts of figs. Does all of them require wasps? Would figs survive without the wasps? --- What the question seeks, is, out of the popular children-book story; the Scientific-details behind figs and wasps. I assume the answer would not broader than reasonable; if someone knows their life-cycles and structures, I think it is possible to give very point-to-point answers within limited space.

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    $\begingroup$ I know that it is actually a "flower" - that's why it is sometimes poetically called secret garden. What I want to know is: Does every plant has all kinds of figs (female, male etc.)? The female figs are the figs humans eat. The hole is so small, that the wasp dies inside because it can just enter the fruit. What exactly happens inside? Does she lays eggs? Or does she just die? And what about the male figs. Are they not edible because of the insects inside of them? Do they start to rot because of the insects? How does the life of a female wasp looks like? And the life of a male one? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Aspergirl89 Among different fig species some are monoecious (hermaphrodite) and some are gynodioecious (hermaphrodite and female flowers on separate plant). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficus#Fig_fruit_and_reproduction_system. Thanks for knocking me, I didnot knew this $\endgroup$
    – user25568
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 10:15
  • $\begingroup$ You could elaborate these queries in the original post. That would make your question more specific. $\endgroup$
    – user25568
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 10:37

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