June 15, 2006 @ 5:55 am | Filed under: Nature Study
If you’re just tuning into this story, it begins here.
Today’s news: still no news. Herodotus continues to munch unmolested. There has been not the teeniest tiniest sign of The Monster’s presence. Is he pupating inside poor old Homer’s remains? We cannot tell. I’d post a picture but it’s not a pretty sight.
I find myself checking on Herodotus like he’s a newborn baby with respiratory issues. Jane originally found him on the same parsley plant as Homer, on the same day. We speak of the implications in whispers: What if the mother wasp laid an egg in Herodotus too? Horrible to contemplate.
The suspense is agony: Is he a ticking bomb? Will he suffer the same gruesome fate as his fellow? Or will he live to unfurl his wings and sail off into the paradise of blossoms that is our perennial bed?
Meanwhile, we found this: the tale of an ichneumonid wasp whose larva actually alters a spider’s behavior.
The orb spider is stung while on its web and is temporarily paralysed while the wasp lays her egg on it. The spider then recovers and goes about its life with the newly hatched wasp larva feeding on it by sucking its haemolymph (spider “blood”).
For about 7 to 14 days, the spider continues building its usual orb webs for prey capture. However, in the evening of the night when it is to be killed by its wasp parasite, the spider weaves a different web, designed specifically to suit the purposes of the wasp. The wasp larva then moults, kills and consumes the spider and pupates, suspending itself safely from its custom-built cocoon web.
The spider’s dying act is to spin a cocoon for its assassin! Talk about adding insult to injury!
And how does the timing work out? I don’t get that “in the evening of the night when it is to be killed” part. “The execution was scheduled for the stroke of midnight.” Or is it like Charlotte, knowing her time was nigh, urgently extracting her promise from Wilbur as the strength ebbed from her body?