This is the one to watch.
This is the one to watch.
Regular readers will know how the Ranger has an uneasy respect for waspkind. At this time of the year there aren’t many around yet and it’s easy to forget our yellowjacketed friends, but don’t be fooled: they are busy getting ready for the summer.
I was entertained to find, whilst reading Imgur’s ‘Best pictures of 2010′ one wasp-related graphic which I decided not to use earlier this year as, well, it’s a bit profane. In fact, very profane. But I enjoyed it so much I thought that you could probably make the decision for yourself. So if you don’t like rude words, don’t click through.
Look at this gorgeous North American solitary wasp (click the image for a bigger version if you like). Now wonder about its name – why is it named after a bird? After all, cuckoos are hardly known for their brightly coloured plumage. The answer lies in its lifestyle. Cuckoo wasps are so named because they breed by surreptitiously laying an egg in the nest of another (usually) wasp or bee – just as cuckoos do to other birds. Then the young cuckoo wasp larva hatches out, eats the larva of the host animal, and then enjoys the provisions the mother has left behind for her own offspring. From the cell emerges not the expected bee or wasp, but another species entirely – the adult cuckoo wasp.
The cuckoo wasps (and there are many species, including quite a few in the UK) have some special adaptations to help them do this. They have a really long egg-laying ovipositor, that can extend telescopically to let them insert an egg deep into a host cell. They also have the ability to curl up into a protective ball, like some woodlice do; with strong armour on the back, and gaps underneath where they can tuck their legs and antennae safely. It must be a hazardous life being a parasite – those host bees and wasps can bite and sting!
Last seen in 1928, the colobognathÂ millipede Illacme plenipes is thought to have more legs than any other animal on earth – oneÂ female was found with 750 legs, while the males are thought to have a maximum of 562. Despite its legginess the species is actually quite small, even relative to other millipedes. Females grow to just over an inch long; males are slightly smaller.Â NowÂ scientistsÂ from the University of Arizona have rediscovered this elusive beast, and here’s a video of it.
Persisting with the Ranger’s long-standing interest in bizarre invertebrates, the latest addition to his virtual menagerie is this video, enigmatically titled “A shrimp on a treadmill to the tune of Benny Hill”:
This is one of the funniest things the Ranger has seen online for a long time. Which probably says something about the internet.
Jumping spiders are, on the whole, pretty tiny things. And I say ‘pretty’Â deliberatelyÂ as they are amongst the cutest, funniest and most decorative of spiders. The game of ‘hide and seek’ with a passing zebra spider never grows old. But what if they were bigger? A lot bigger? They’d be irresistibly cute, surely! Well, Hyluss diardi, a south-east Asian species, is one of the biggest jumpers there is,Â growingÂ up to 10mm long. And here he is:
In days gone by, we hear from time to time, people used to make their own entertainment. Indeed they did; and in 1946 a slim tome was published by Wm. A Bagley called ‘Things to make and do’. TheÂ descriptiveÂ powers of Mr Bagley set out to inspire the youth of post-warÂ BritainÂ to engage in such frugal butÂ beneficialÂ pastimesÂ as ‘Whittling a bunch of keys’, ‘More whittling: a curious tripod’ and even ‘To create some bottledÂ mysteries’.
Most striking to me Â though, in the table of contents, was the Wasp Scissors. Bagley explains the purpose of his Wasp Scissors with the following arresting scenario:
During late summer days the following comedy, or something like it, will be frequently performed at picnics, camps and other alfresco meals. A fat wasp will land on the jam pot and everyone (especially the ladies) get excited. Father, attempting to swipe the wasp with a rolled-up newspaper, knocks the milk over into the sugar. The wasp, now thoroughly alarmed, stings someone, and whilst the sting is being attended to, about a dozen other wasps get stuck in the jam. Mother thereupon scoops out the contaminated jam, and so wastes a lot.
Safe and Simple
Now, if you only had the pair of wasp scissors shown in the drawing you would not have all this bother. One little nip, and the wasp is quickly, cleanly, and humanely extinguished. You can make a pair in one evening at very little cost. They sell very well, too, among friends and neighbours, or at sales, etc.
You want to see the wasp scissors? Of course you do!
So what’s the big idea with puffer fish? Puff out, frighten off your enemy and make yourself too big to eat. It’s apparently quite a successful strategy.
But justÂ occasionallyÂ even the best-laidÂ plans goÂ awry.