Do you know how figs like those in Fig Newtons are produced? They need dead wasps to make these delicious fruits! Watch to find out what that’s all about!
[Video Description: Barbara, a white woman wearing a maroon long-sleeve shirt, stands in the foreground. In the background are three plants. On the left is a white bookshelf with various books and trinkets. On the right is a framed art by Nancy Rourke “The Deaf Mind”.
00:02:08 – An image of two Fig Newtons stacked on top of each other.
00:23:10 – A cross-section image of fig.
06:20:02: A full-screen image: This video is sponsored by RIT/NTID Regional STEM Center. Below is a logo of RIT on the left with National Technical Institute for the Deaf on the right.] #deaf #stemeducation
Transcript: Do you know how figs like those in Fig Newtons are produced? They need dead wasps to make these delicious fruits! Before I explain what’s up with dead wasps… Figs are technically not a fruit ― they are inverted flowers.Their flowers bloom inside the pear-shaped pod, which later matures into the fruit we eat. Each flower then produces a single, one-seeded, hard-shelled fruit called achene ― that’s what gives the fig the crunch we know ― and the fig is made up of multiple achene. So when we eat a fig, we are actually eating multiple fruits. Because fig flowers bloom internally, they need a special process for pollination. They cannot rely on the wind or bees to spread their pollen ― that’s where the fig wasp comes in. The fig cannot survive without the fig wasp to spread its genetic material, and the fig wasp cannot live without the fig, because that’s where it lays its larva ― this relationship is known as mutualism. So about that dead wasp… The pregnant female fig wasp enters the male fig (called caprifigs) ― we don’t eat the male figs, by the way ― through a tiny opening at the bottom of the fig to lay its eggs. The opening is so small that the female wasp loses their wings and antennae as they make their way in. Once it’s in, there is no way out. The female fig wasp lays her fertilized eggs into flowers that are inside of the figs; she also fertilizes some of the fig flowers with her fig pollen. Once the female wasp is done, she usually dies inside the fig. The baby male wasps emerge from their eggs first. They are born without wings because their sole purpose is to mate with the female offspring — technically their sister — before they are born. Then, the male wasps begin to dig a tunnel out of the fig and die before exiting the fig. The female offspring, now fertilized, will make their way out of the male caprifig using the tunnels the male wasps dug. On her way out of the male caprifig, she picks up pollen from the male flowers. Thanks to her wings, she can exit the caprifig to enter a fig where she will try to pollinate other flowers and deposit her eggs. Upon entering a new fig, her wings are ripped off. In some situations, she enters a female fig. She has been tricked! She can not lay her eggs in the female fig (because the female flowers are not compatible with her egg-laying needs), but she can pollinate the flowers from the pollen she received from the male fig! Here’s the important part: There’s no way for a female fig wasp to know if the fig she is entering is male or female. The pollination process happens purely by chance. Thus, after pollinating the female fig, the female wasp dies inside the female fig. But… there’s a dead wasp inside the fig?! Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean the crunch in the fig is a wasp carcass. The fig uses an enzyme known as ficin to completely break down the wasp into protein that the fig will absorb. Remember, we don’t eat male figs, only female ones. (yes, the edible fig). There are some fig varieties, such as the common fig, that are entirely self-pollinated or parthenocarpic. They have both male and female parts inside the fig and do not need wasps to pollinate and produce fruits. These figs are largely seedless. Which fig type is better tasting? That’s up for debate. Some say pollinated figs are more tender and flavorful, and they have an extra nutty taste due to the seeds. Some say parthenocarpic figs are more fleshy and juicy. What do you think?