Monday, June 12, 2006

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 :

Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and insects, it seems, gotta do one
horrible thing after another.

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.

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. Posted by Picasa


Blogger Darius said...

"Yet we too are part of the this strange mix." To which I say, Bingo.

Nice to hear someone else mention that. Science-minded critical thinker-types often have a way of discounting that particular fact. Even though I'm that "type" too, in so far as I can't just believe what I want to believe, I also can't overlook the things that people in the "non-religious camp" often want to overlook.

Ok, here's a pet peeve: What is it with Christians and all things EGG??? I didn't know the fixation extended to the insect world!

I always wish "prolifers" could get more energized with concern for ambient, non-microscopic humans...

4:50 PM  
Blogger ticharu said...

We get a bug like that here in the fall, only it's jet black, but really quite shockingly huge.
We've got some great butterflys around here this year and the fireflies are spectacular!
Found a snake out in the open today so I picked it up and moved it off away from the cat. He/she was content to be held for a while, smelling me with its tongue. I let it down in the tall grass and zing it was gone!

8:46 PM  
Blogger jim said...

Humans create like G-d, not sexually but creatively, by word and deed, by thought and intent and planning, if you think for a minute that they do not, without a qualm, do this very thing at the level of their 'creating and creation', you are mistaken, and it is just as untenable a thing from a Human Soul point of view. Now how?

11:58 PM  
Blogger Nova said...

Kate, you're my hero. :-)

I'm the biggest chicken when it comes to insects and bugs and the like. I freaked out just the other week when I saw a giant water bug for the first time in my life.

I, too, love nature and all creatures great and small, but I also like to keep at least an arm's length distance with some creatures, especially the small ones! :-)

7:18 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Thanks guys!

Oh Nova, you are so sweet! :-)♥

11:28 AM  
Blogger Liquidplastic said...

My goodness, how very interesting, Kate. I looked for your email address and didn't find it. So I will post this link as per your request from my blog.

I hope you find this interesting, as it is about the old women.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Thank you so much for sharing that Amais, it is AMAZING! :-)

12:53 PM  
Blogger Urban Chick said...

OMG, i meant to ask you months ago whether you read annie dillard - i figured she was right up your street!

3:08 PM  
Blogger Eden said...

I love nature too and the Creator, and Annie Dillard, and Thomas Traherne, and the hard questions posed by the natural world.

5:00 AM  
Blogger ShanaRose said...

First time at your blog (from Tara's). So. Understand. what you're sayin'. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek's my favorite book too.

10:15 AM  

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