Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nature Notes: Nightmare on Elm Street

Some creatures are scarier than others. This one, hanging from the garage ceiling, sent my younger son sprinting into the house the moment he laid eyes on it.

Fortunately, that four-inch long "stinger" isn't a stinger at all.

This is a Giant Ichneumon Wasp, megarhyssa atrata lineata, and that formidable-looking appendage is a highly dexterous tool for boring into wood and laying eggs.

How the ovipositor can bore into wood is still not well understood, but in some species they actually have metal tips.

This parasitic wasp lays eggs inside the caterpillars of wood borers, primarily of horn tail wasps. The eggs hatch inside their hosts, feeding slowly from the inside out, killing the host only when they pupate.

The whole grisly process is said to have shaken Charles Darwin's faith in a benevolent Creator. You can pretty much see his point.

The adult ichneumon, on the other hand, doesn't eat at all. She's just a lean, mean, baby monster-making machine.

All in all, the wasp is considered a beneficial insect. Unless you're a caterpillar.

If you'd like to see one of these amazing creatures in action, here's a remarkable YouTube link for you. And for bigger, better still shots go here.



Click here to see more Nature Notes.

19 comments:

Thyra said...

Wow that is really a scary creature. I understand your son, I would be afraid to be stung by that wasp. But it is not interested in humans - fortunately. Amazing video-clip. Insect-life can be quite terrifying!

Cheers
Thyra

Carver said...

That would scare me too. This was a very interesting post and a great shot.

KaHolly said...

WOW! That's quite the creature! Don't think I've ever seen anything that looks so formidiable with that long 'stinger'. ~ks

Greenearth said...

Impressed by your photo.

lifeshighway said...

I think I feel a little sick

Scott said...

That is way interesting, and I think I might have had the same reaction as your little one did. Great close up.

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Very interesting and beautiful post !!Really enjoyed this !!

Bird said...

FANTASTIC post! I was about eight or nine when I saw my first one... it was in the act of ovipositoring (is that the right word?) and had it's body completely arched over as it bored into the wood. It was one of the weirdest things I had ever seen and kind of launched my fascination with insects. I wasn't scared because I could see it was doing something strange and so not interested in me at all but when I learned about what it was actually doing it gave me freaky nightmares I can tell you. Thanks for sharing this, it turned me into an 8 year old girl again for a minute there!

Karen said...

Isn't it amazing how perspective, detail and size influence our perceptions! I'd be scared too!

MyMaracas said...

Thyra, I'm glad you clicked on the video. It's hard to believe an insect can do that until you see it.

Carver, the photo would have been better if I'd gotten a ladder and climbed up there, but I didn't dare get close either. Wish I'd known it was harmless before it flew off.

MyMaracas said...

KaHolly, Scott, Raja and Green, thanks! I think it's the scariest looking bug I've ever seen.

Life, I thought about you and how much you hate things like this when I posted. Sorry about that. ;-)

MyMaracas said...

Bird, thanks so much for sharing that story! On the one hand, I envy you having seen one "in the act". But had I seen it at eight years old, it would have given me nightmares too, so I'm glad I missed it back then.

Karen, that's so true. The more I discover about insects, the happier I am that they are small. Though anything with a stinger several times the length of its body would give me pause, whatever its size.

A piece of news said...

That is disgusting! I'm with Life: sick. I'll have nightmares for a week.

MyMaracas said...

News, sorry about that, I really am. I did hesitate to do this post because of its not-niceness. But yanno, it ain't all rainbows and butterflies out there. Beautiful as she is, Mother Nature is one cold hearted bitch.
;-)

eileeninmd said...

Interesting post and critter.

Crafty Green Poet said...

wow what an impressive ovipositor!

Rambling Woods said...

Love this...You got some great detail in the photo and good information Vicki

MyMaracas said...

Eileen, thanks! I'm glad you found it interesting.

Crafty, it is pretty amazing, isn't it?

Michelle, I always enjoy your informative posts, and thought I'd share a little research too. ;-)

EG Wow said...

This is a very good photo!!