Death Of Our Oldest Spider, Zombie Caterpillars And Masquerading Ant Butt Beetles


Fellow Worpresser Peter ( https://ppazucha.wordpress.com/ ) sent word of a tragic arachnid death. The world’s oldest spider, a female Australian trapdoor spider known only as Number 16 was found dead in her burrow at age 43. Number 16 didn’t succumb to old age, her death is credited to a parasitic wasp attack. Wasps enter burrows laying eggs in or on the spider. When eggs hatch, larvae eat the spider from outside in or inside out. Number 16 was identified in 1973 by Barbara York Main, the University of Western Australia arachnologist known as “the spider lady”, part of Main’s trapdoor spider population study in the central wheat-belt of Western Australia. Before Number 16, a 28-year-old captive Mexican tarantula held the title of oldest known spider. Curse you parasitic wasp, RIP Number 16.

Image result for number 16 dies burrow

Image result for number 16 dies burrow

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-monday-edition-1.4641540/the-world-s-oldest-spider-was-killed-by-a-parasitic-wasp-1.4641544

It’s impossible to Google death of world’s oldest spider without stumbling upon a plethora of insect peculiarities.

Chris Miller, project manager of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, England discovered a lethal virus that turns caterpillars into zombies. Baculovirus affects how caterpillars’ brains react to sunlight and forces them to make a death march towards treetops in the middle of the day. Zombie caterpillars march to the treetops and die. Their bodies liquefy, the virus bursts out of their corpses and drips onto victims below.

What remains of an oak eggar moth caterpillar after it climbed to the top of a tree and liquefied. (Chris Miller)

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-wednesday-edition-1.4232025/a-virus-in-england-is-turning-caterpillars-into-exploding-zombies-1.4232030

Hats off to Nymphister Kronaueri, a new species of beetle identified by Christoph Von Beeren, an ecologist at Germany’s Technische Universitaet Darmstadt while studying army ants with his colleague Daniel Kronauer in the Costa Rica rainforest, spring 2014. Camped in the jungle, watching army ants by lamplight, they noticed ants with double butts. Closer inspection revealed another example of specialized adaptation in the natural world. Evolutionary whimsy decreed army ants wouldn’t notice a stowaway beetle masquerading as an ant ass. Army ants are apex predators, voracious marauders stinging, dismembering and devouring unfortunate spiders, birds, snakes and small animals along the way. Over 300 insect species shadow ant armies feeding on scraps. Science doesn’t know why, but for what must be a very good reason nature insists a piggy-backing ant butt beetle gets first crack at the buffet.

From above, it’s hard to tell this army ant has a beetle attached to its rear. (M. Maruyama)

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-wednesday-edition-1.3984065/is-it-a-butt-or-a-bug-newly-discovered-beetle-masquerades-as-ant-s-backside-1.3984071

 

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Transient


Image result for dustin farrell transient

Transient – mesmerizing, primal, inspirational, humbling, freaking incredible. Filmmaker /photographer Dustin Farrel spent the summer of 2017 traveling 20,000 miles around the United States of America capturing lightening strikes at 1,000 frames per second.

http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2017/12/transient-lighting-film-dustin-farrell/

Pondering Honey Fungus


What is the largest organism on Earth? Simple enough question, take a shot at the answer – giant sequoia, blue whale – not even close. Ponder a 5.5 kilometer across honey fungus in Oregon, our largest terrestrial organism.

Image via Factorialist.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/10/humongous-fungus-genome/544265/

Fungus inhabit the kingdom of Fungi. Neither plant or animal, science suspects member species of the fungal realm number in millions. Of 120,000 identified species –  300 are detrimental to humans, 8,000 attack plants, many more target animals. Before dismissing fungus as mushroom soup or nasty toenails, ponder a parasitic community boasting the largest organism on Earth.

Science defines individual life forms as organisms comprised of genetically identical cells, able to communicate and share a common purpose. Weighing an estimated 600 tons, Oregon’s behemoth Honey Fungus passes the single organism test with flying colours. Don’t go looking for a giant mushroom, most of this fungal monstrosity lurks below ground. A parasitic giant, entwined underground in colonized tendrils intent on dissolving roots of conifer forests above.

http://factorialist.com/fungus-tree-eating-machine/

http://earthsky.org/earth/largest-land-organism-honey-fungus

Fungi don’t photosynthesize, sustenance comes from absorbing nutrients dissolved by secretion of digestive enzymes. Science can’t say if it took two or eight thousand years for the world’s largest organism to occupy 2,384 acres, roughly the area of 1,665 football fields. It can say the largest individual organism on Earth is a fungal parasite named Honey. A mysterious, organic matter dissolving monster capable of sucking life from all it touches. Fungi freak me out.

Season Of Spider Love


In my corner of the world spiders are considered summertime house invaders. With seasonal predictability they arrive on the promise of spring staking claim to the garden. As days lengthen we open windows and doors, inviting spiders into our homes with warm weather indifference. Canadian summers are fleeting, knowing they’ll be gone at first frost excuses occasional household spider drama.

As I write, autumn chill suggests a timely spider farewell – not so fast, this is the season of spider love.

Three species in particular, the Hobo, Barn Tunnel Weaver and “giant house spider” Eratigena Atrica reach sexual maturity in autumn. All three abandon their horizontal sheet or funnel garden webs in search of love. Just when Canadians let their guard fall with autumn leaves, harmless lovelorn spiders appear in bathtubs, basements and bedroom walls.

As spiders go they aren’t behemoth, venomous or likely to bite, all they want is a little love.Take a deep breath, stifle screams, scoop and show them the door.

What Have I Done


Chances of finding someone who shares relaxed indifference toward a Black Widow spider living 18 months in their basement window are slim to none. Likewise genuine remorse for basement widow’s unceremonious death, or wobbly knee outrage over vacuum hose eradication wielded by a concerned family member. I sulked for weeks, outraged by audacity of family capable of decisive spider intervention while I was away.

“I liked that spider, it wasn’t bothering you!” met “Are you nuts? Have you seen what a Black Widow bite can do?”. Yes I replied, but you don’t understand, this spider liked the basement window. Knowing they acted reasonably didn’t ease the loss of basement widow.

I haven’t told them basement widow’s polite demeanor might have been a peculiar anomaly. Nor have I divulged “what have I done” alarm over recent Black Widow sightings. Widows I might add, who by all appearances lack the courtesy of basement widow. Three Black Widow encounters in the past two days, all eluding attempts to catch and release, not one downstairs where they belong. Oh my, what have I done.

These widows are feisty, smaller and alarmingly craftier than the soothing persona of basement widow. One in windowsill cactus above my kitchen sink, another attempting to claim the bathroom window, a third exuding what you gonna do about it confidence between folds of the spare bedroom curtain. What have I done? Three allowed themselves to be seen, how many lurk unseen.

Evangelical Hurricane


Common sense knows lesbians aren’t responsible for Hurricane Harvey. Radio preacher Rick Wiles begs to differ,suggesting Houston is underwater because it “boasted of its LGBT devotion”. Enter my favorite nincompoop Ann Coulter, who tweeted – I don’t believe Hurricane Harvey is God’s punishment for Houston electing a lesbian mayor,” “But that is more credible than ‘climate change.’ ”

Right Wing Watch reported Pastor Kevin Swanson’s caution on hurricane Irma –  the storm path would be altered by God if the Supreme Court quickly made abortion and gay marriage illegal.

Rush Limbaugh doesn’t blame hurricane season on God, however he fingers “liberal media hype” – “There is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it,” he argued, claiming that “hurricanes are always forecast to hit major population centers.”

Twenty years ago religious broadcaster Pat Robertson said Orlando should beware of hurricanes for allowing the Gay Days celebration. Robertson said the widespread practice of homosexuality “will bring about terrorist bombs, it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor.”

Jim Bakker deserves mention, his tenacious resolve to profit from God is staggering. Not for a post Harvey assertion “this flood is from God”, but for saying so while pitching “Tasty Pantry”, a line of dehydrated survival food sold to sustain the faithful during the coming apocalypse.

I shudder to think how many people take natural disaster as Gods wrath. How many buy nonsense of climate change conspiracy or fail to understand the significance of 79 degrees Fahrenheit – when surface water in the Atlantic reaches 79 degrees it evaporates at the rate of 180 tons an hour, water vapor rises forming massive clouds of low pressure. Caught in rotational force, clouds rotate pushing away high atmospheric pressure, feeding on energy of continuous evaporation a hurricane is born of warm ocean water, not God.

Stop this Biblical nonsense.