Giant Ichneumon Wasp
The other day I found a very interesting insect which I had never seen before. It was a bedraggled cat toy for the hordes of feral cats that my next-door neighbor feeds. I examined it and found it still alive. It was some kind of very large wasp, with a long tail. I guessed (correctly) that the "tail" was not a stinger, but an ovipositor. I examined it, took some pictures of the poor half-dead thing, and released it in an area with fewer feral cats.
Since the pictures didn't come out very well, I decided not to use them on my blog. The very next morning, as I was leaving for work, what did I find but another one of these weird bugs, right on the hood of my car! I went into the house and grabbed the camera, and here it is!
A little google searching taught me that the female giant ichneumon wasp uses it's long ovipositor to drill into a dead tree and lay it's eggs which then parasitize the larvae of another type of wasp living in the wood. The ichneumon larvae keeps the host larvae alive, while eating it from within. Something which has apparently been disturbing theologians for a long time.
As Annie Dillard wrote in (one of my favorite books) Pilgrim at Tinker Creek :
Still, this living thing was not alien to me, however distasteful it's behavior might seem from a human point of view. Perhaps the mystery of life is not the seeming cruelty or indifference of nature, (the universe, God, etc...) but our own mammalian empathy and compassion. We are the anomaly. Yet we too are part of the this strange mix.
Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and insects, it seems, gotta do one
horrible thing after another.
I love nature, and I love the Creator, but I try not to romanticize either. We can't know. Life is bigger than us. That is a hard truth to accept sometimes. Still, it is interesting to study, discover and wonder, in our limited way.
This insect actually looked directly at me, it's head and eyes reminded me of a praying mantis. It looked intelligent, but alien. It's job is necessary. I found it beautiful.
But I'm sure glad I'm not the wasp larvae it will be parasitizing.