Honey Pot Ants

WE’VE MOVED! COME AND SEE US HERE YOU BIG SMASHER!

One knows by now that you are a rather erudite bunch, so we don’t need to tell you that in ant society there are a number of castes; workers to bob out to get food, soldiers to deal with any oi polloi, the males that fertilize the queen who lays all the eggs. Well dear readers may we introduce you to another caste you may not have heard of… the lazy fat buffoon.

... I'll have you know it's my metabolism...

As ants don’t have any household staff to ensure a steady supply of pickles and dried meats through the winter months they have instead evolved a living pantry. The fat belly of some of the honey pot ants swells to the size of a grape, and is full of goodies and liquid to help the nest through any ‘dry’ spells.

Expect a full write up on these little bloaters in Volume II soon enough, in the meantime if you’d like to hear more may we recommend this delightful tome.

Published in: on November 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Amazonian Giant Centipede

If a snake had the propensity to beef himself up a tad, we would wager he’d get some legs to move faster, slip into some battle armour to become impervious to blows, and hell even stick a couple of poisonous sword-like pincers at the front. No doubt it would be the most terrifying snake in town, and would adopt the name “snakenator” or “snakeasaurus.” Unfortunately for the snake however someone got their first. Meet the Amazonian giant centipede. As long as a man’s forearm, strong as a snake, fast, armored, venomous, and what’s more doesn’t call himself silly names.

... but you can call me Stevesy...

Mammals love to eat arthropods. Bats can eat 100 mosquitoes in an hour, anteaters can slurp their way through 30,000 ants in a day, king of the crunchy-munchers aardwolves can have 200,000 termites licked in the same time. Even humans are pretty partial to them, with cultures around the world tucking into insects and other arthropods; whether by choice like on the continent, or by proxy, like you or I. Indeed It is estimated that in Blighty we get through about a kilo of state-allowed bugs a year, from the maximum allowable 340 bits of critters in a mug of hot chocolate, to the 12 allowable aphids in the hops in your pint of beer.

Not so the other way around, unless we’ve passed on and spent some time deep down in the ground, as we are generally just too bloody big for them you see. Sure we get nipped hither and thither, but in general our buggy chums generally lack the ambition to really tuck in to a mammal. All, that is, apart from the biggest. Step forward the Amazonian giant centipede, a lightning fast, toothy, armoured lump of annoyed. To be clear there are also rumors of the Galapagos centipede reaching 60cm (2ft) long, but that has never been confirmed… probably because it would only get the Amazonian giant centipede riled.

... a little on the rare side and perhaps a tad flappy, but otherwise satisfactory....

What you really have to admire in this sod is its ambition. Not content with nibbling away on vegetation or other small animals like most of the arthropod world … no, no, no … this devil wants to eat the big tasty stuff. He’s never happier than when he’s chowing down a mouse, and will happily take down a tarantula for even daring to pretend to be big and tough. Even more impressive is the way he catches bats for supper. One of his devilish ploys to get a bit of red meat is to climb to the top of a bat-infested cave and scramble up to the ceiling where he dangles his gnashers down into the bituminous abyss. Soon enough an unlucky bat will stray too close, and when it does it is grabbed and injected with enough venom to kill it in an instant. In no time the centipede will have gobbled the bat, down to the last mammalian morsel.

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 8:53 am  Comments (2)  

Blue Tailed Damselfly

The damselflies and the dragonflies are known as the odonata; the toothed jaws. Toothed in jaw they are for very good reason, for these are the birds of prey of the insect world… though in the case of the blue tailed damselfly the birds are too often preyed upon… making the chaps more like damsels.

'cooeee, anyone homo?'

Of course the Odonata could be considered birds of prey if raptors were a bit scarier, about one hundred times the size of their snacks, plucking tiny birds out of the sky, like iridescent and clanking clockwork toothy biplanes.

Which is all very well and good but why put these insect-botherers in The Proceedings? Well we are going to tell you… that is what we are here for… remember? It seems that the male blue-tailed damselfly exhibit some rather unusual behaviour if left to their own devices. If all fillies are removed from the chaps abode instead of retiring to the drawing room to talk cricket and affairs of state… they will start trying to court each other. Remarkably they will do little dances for the other chaps in a bid to see if they can find a potential suitor… though the rather short sighted researchers did not think to bob in miniature bits of furniture and haberdashery to see if they would start making the place look nice… nor did they investigate their hairdressing abilities.

'Quentin and Roger found the evening a rather gay affair'

Of course there is a sound biological reason for this same-sex behaviour, and it would be ridiculous to compare this ‘situational homosexuality’ in humans to said homo-erotic damselfly dances.

Thankfully we are rather ridiculous down here at the Proceedings and we try and act silly at the first available opportunity. What is more it doesn’t take a massive leap of imagination to realize that situational homosexuality is rather rife in institutions such as prison, boarding school, the navy, the continent etc.

'what, even in Her Majesty's Navy! Those seaman should be discharged!'

Even the toughest of tough guys have been taken in by this situational homosexuality. Don’t believe me?… well take the example of Colditz Castle in World War II. The infamous castle set atop a cliff in Saxony was perhaps the most famous prisoner of war camp that the Nazis put together… here the most remarkable Allied heroes were sent to prevent them from escaping; fighter pilot ace Sir Douglas Bader, founder of the SAS Sir David Stirling, Captain Charles Upham the only person to receive the Victoria Cross twice. The list could go on. The tales of derring-do and escape from Colditz are of course renowned though there is a short tale that is less oft told. To pass the time of day the inmates would stage plays and of course that required a dame. A young soldier who with respect will go unnamed was perfect for the role, a rather feminine young chap with a beautiful singing voice. More and more the beautiful young officer would sing, and slowly many of the inmates developed a crush on him. Soon they were showering him with gifts and people would hold open doors in corridors for him and doff their cap in a most gentlemanly fashion.

Back to the delightful blue tailed damselfly, and yes there is a genuine biological reason this same sex behaviour can be brought about by simple experimentation. The female damselflies come in a variety of colours and these fillies only need to mate once in their life. They are rather frigid as fillies go and will go to great lengths to avoid having to spend time humping, they only need to find one mate for their life, and they much prefer chomping on insects and what not… so to avoid too much unwanted attention, some of the fillies simply look a bit more like the male variants

So there we have it a male damselfly that can be made to act like a dame because the dame can act like a chap! Huzzah!

Published in: on June 16, 2010 at 11:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Blister Beetles

Beetles are the most numerous species on the planet, nearly half of all the animal species described on the big wet rock we call home are incredibly beetloid…. in fact one in four living things described are… yes you got it beetles… there are millions of them. You could fill the biggest stadium in the world with beetles, hundreds of times over, which would prove nothing… and at best would result in a bloody awful mess and some rather miffed football fans. If you laid them end to end around the world they would undoubtedly go around many times, though it would be a phenomenal waste of time, and very likely be a bit of a bind, even with the aid of some sort of adhesive.

The blister beetle is a smashing example of our rather numerous chums. So called because he secretes a noxious liquid that causes blisters. What’s more he has a rather more racy past as one species is the famed Spanish fly who for the record is neither Spanish nor a fly.

It does however cause the male member to tumesce; to form a tallywhacker trouser tent as it were. Now before you mount an expedition for the Sudan to pick up some of the chaps we have to tell you the downsides. Unfortunately it is rather painful, the blistering effect of the beetle causes irritation of the mutton sword, and leads to priapism; a constant stiffy.

... or are you just pleased to see me?

The crushed beetle has been used in medicine since Hippocrates day. In later beardy times Livia, the scheming wife of Julius Caesar, slipped it into the food of her guests in the hope that it would cause some indiscretion so that she could blackmail. Henry IV was a fan, as was Marquis de Sade who was sentenced to death for sodomy and poisoning after he laced prostitutes with the stuff – though he was later reprieved. The blister beetles were fashionable in France in the eighteenth century, which is quite remarkable as these chaps are really rather poisonous. It was really rather fine poison in its day as the only way to detect was to cut out the deceased’s organs and rub them on a shaved bunny to see if they would cause blistering, of course cutting out someone’s organs and squishing them on depilated rodents is a fine way to check if they’ve been killed.

Though we human parents can only express cold-hearted indifference about what the nanny must have to go through at our kid’s terrible twos… and give a passing whince as their boarding school deals with their tumultuous teens. We should perhaps spare a thought to some blister beetle species parents as their offspring are truly horrific, though thankfully they too have found a way of offloading them on some other poor bugger. After hatching the blister beetle larvae form a ball… a very sexy ball, at least a very sexy ball if you are a passing male bee, as they take the rough shape, and presumably more importantly the smell of a female bee ready for rumpy pumpy. The male bee naturally thinks this a grand idea and dives straight in.

... sexy time!

At this point all the blister beetle larvae grab hold and don’t let go, transforming a once smashing looking bee into the sort of thing you see if you snooze after a particularly heavy stilton and port session when you get back from a talk at the classics society. Remarkably the male, who let’s not forget is festooned with thousands of hideous larvae, doesn’t have difficulty getting a new date and he promptly transfers the horrible buggers on to his new suitor.

... inexplicably this bee will find something to have nuptials with

They accompany her to the nest and gobble up all the nice eggs and food she has spent her busy life preparing… they don’t always eat the bee larvae and may simply behave like a Scotch house guest and eat all the host’s food. Though thankfully it is just a stage they are going through…

Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 4:04 pm  Comments (1)  

Ant-Decapitating Flies

These tiny tiny flies are actually gruesome killing machines… what is more they WANT TO EAT YOUR BRAINS, well they do if you happen to be a type of South American ant which I grant is unlikely as you would probably be reading a Spanish or Quechuan marvellous menagerie or some such… and would probably have difficulty with the pages… actually that would be the least of your problems if you had an ant decapitating fly on your hands.

These zombie flies come from a diverse bunch of flies known as the scuttle flies… so called because… yes quite you’ve seen them scuttling around then… smashing.

What these ant decapitating scuttle flies do is jump on the back of some hapless ant, stab it with their ovipositor and stick an egg into the poor sod… the egg quickly develops into a larvae and wriggles up the body and into the head. There the hungry maggot chows down on the brain until it is entirely gobbled up. Remarkably the ant, while having to take a bit more time over The Times cryptic crossword these days, is still able to walk and do other menial chores. Of course if this was done to you or I we would a) be very unhappy about it b) be quite dead… and therefore probably not really mind that much about it. Ants however have a number of ganglion down their back that act as miniature brains.

... and the winner of the fancy dress competition iiiiisss...

After the ant decapitating fly larvae has been bimbling around in the ant’s head for about two weeks, having a merry old time enjoying the view and the cuisine, the fly larvae releases an enzyme that dissolves through the muscles in the back of the ant’s head. Of course the ant’s head bobs off, and the larvae has a bit of a snooze pupating to work off the delicious lunch he’s had. A couple of weeks later and after a bit of a costume change off he flies to go and bother some other poor sod.

The ant decapitating flies are part of the rather diverse Phoridae family of flies. A group containing the rather gruesome group the coffin flies that feast on the human remains inside their final resting places, scurrying six feet through the soil for a bit of a mange, they include the omnivorous species Megaselia scalaris who will happily eat virtually anything… plants, open wounds on any animal, living lung tissue, even boot polish and paint.

pull yourself together man

Though it is the ant-decapitating zombie fly that we have in our hearts… though thankfully not in our heads. The ants that they bother, mainly in the tropics, no doubt keep them in a lower esteem. The lengths that these ants go to to avoid having their brain eaten are remarkable… though quite understandable. Some species of leaf cutter ant have even gone to the measure of having an escort, one to carry the leaf one to tussle with the ant decapitating flies.

Published in: on January 14, 2010 at 9:53 am  Comments (6)  

Namibian fog-basking beetle

On a foggy morning you can find old Onymacris unguicularis standing on his head on top of a sand dune with his bottom in the air… no he hasn’t been drinking all night, quite the opposite, in fact he’s absolutely parched.

beetle2

Water, lovely stuff, wash with it, make tea with it… life started in it and it took quite some time for him to get out of it, I know how it feels, it’s awful getting out of the tub at times…

The wet stuff is flabbergasting in its omnipresent grandeur, lakes of incomprehensible dimensions, huge rivers coarse through the land slicing through granite mountains like an unimaginably slow paring knife. The oceans are so massive that we haven’t got the foggiest what lurks at the bottom of them. Water blankets the planet, our blue Earth, covering two thirds of it… in fact it never fails to surprise us down at the Proceedings that there is in fact absolutely bugger all of the stuff… don’t believe me? Take a look;

water

Told you… yes really, that’s it, that wee blue droplet is all the lakes, all the rivers, all the puddles, all the seas, all the ice and soda, even all the cup a soups… all that we have… thankfully we don’t treat it too badly… back in a mo’ just going for a… oh dear lordy what are we doing?

Which brings us back to our friend the Namibian fog-basking beetle. The local bushmen refer to him as the ‘tok-tokkie’ beetle, as they attract a mate by tapping the ground with their bottoms to make a noise. Though it’s not for their fine line in rectal morse-code chat up lines that makes this chap so splendid. He’s developed a rather nifty way of getting a drink. As a sea fog rolls in of a morning the beetle presents himself to it. This is where things get clever, his carapace is made up of a series of peaks and troughs. The peaks are very attractive to water and the fog settles on them, the troughs however are waxy and hydrophobic and the water rolls off the trough and begins to form droplets. The water naturally runs down the inverted beetles body and into his mouth, smashing!

namibia01

This gave the chaps down at the MoD an idea, they’ve made a series of fabrics using glass beads and waxy coatings to make huge and inexpensive fog catchers, so that the parched locals can get a glass of water. Of course getting a free drink at the best of times is obviously a good idea, but in Africa it could be a matter of life and death. While governments nowadays are happy to kick the hell out of some poor bloody country for the sake of oil… as the population crisis looms the next wars will be fought over a far more valuable fluid resource… actually I think I’ll have that drink after all.

Published in: on October 13, 2009 at 10:15 am  Comments (1)  

Tarantula Hawk

Tarantulas… big ugly bitey buggers… not ideal babysitting material in anyone’s book. Oddly the extraordinary tarantula hawk likes to leave junior with these evil sods… still she does take the precaution of paralyzing him first… a bit like leaving sherry with the nanny.

Tarantula_Hawk

Tarantula hawks are actually a type of wasp. A bally big wasp as you’d expect. They also possess an incredibly powerful sting, second in power only to the bullet ant. The tarantula hawk’s sting is described by our old mate Schmidt as “Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.” Which sounds like one to be avoided.

The tarantula hawk sniffs out the tarantula, even going as far to head into their lair. Where it somehow entrances the big bloody spider. No one is really sure how this happens, the research being a tad thin on the ground. Most zoologists, being human, tend to avoid having to handle them and will go to great lengths to avoid publishing papers on ‘How the Stingiest Stinger you couldn’t even imagine interacts with the Spider from Hades’ presumably preferring to write papers on ‘Who prefers snuggles most? Penguins, Otters or Puppies” Though it is probably that this flying assassin is using some sort of pheromone.

and that's the story of the 'owl and the pussycat'... now sleep tight little Jessica

and that's the story of the 'owl and the pussycat'... now sleep tight little Jessica

The wasp then crawls over the tarantula checking he’s exactly the right species, when she’s sure he’s the right one she delivers a potent neurotoxin, drags it to the bottom of its burrow, lays a single egg and seals up the burrow with the spider. Eventually the larva hatches and sticks its mouth into the living tarantula’s abdomen to suck the spider dry. When the squidgy bits are gone, the rapidly growing larvae moves on to the paralysed spiders fresh essential organs. The spider of course dies, as it really could have quite done with those essential organs to live, which is why they were so bloody well essential in the first place. With the buffet slayed the wasp larvae builds a cocoon to metamorphose. To change into another tarantula bothering machine. Smashing stuff!

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 3:44 pm  Comments (11)  

Tar Baby Termites

WE’VE MOVED HERE! COME SAY HELLO!

Suicide Bomber Bugs

These fellows have worse eating habits than the Scots… of course a termite’s food of choice is wood, unlike a Scot of course … their chosen type of food is drink. Termites find that small bits of wood are a bit easier on the mandibles so furniture and other bits of houses make a fine supper. So fine in fact that Termites cause more than $5 BILLION of damage in the US alone every single year. What’s more this wee chap can actually chew through concrete.

i say ... is this bar tender?

i say ... is this bar tender?

It was assumed that Termites are related to that other enormous group of six-legged fiends… the ants. Up until now that is, through the new-fangled jiggery-pokery of DNA analysis it’s been discovered that termites are actually cockroaches.

Though today we are having a quick peruse of one social-cockroach in particular. The tar baby termite, you see this Ever-so-Strange chap has evolved a rather effective manner of defence against marauding ants. It quite simply explodes, killing itself in the process, leaving behind a sticky impassable goo … and it’s attacker in a sticky situation … so that his nest mates can live on. Rather commendable I’m sure you’ll agree. Now if anyone can find a video of this I’ll buy them half a mild… until then here’s a photo.

remarkable

remarkable

Published in: on June 20, 2009 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Asian Giant Hornet

WE’VE MOVED HERE! COME SAY HELLO!

You know hornets, like big wasps, scary things? The Asian giant hornet eats hornets. They eat forty in a minute.

They are huge evil buggers, about the size of a small bird if of course small birds were evil. What’s more they are fast, which is never a good thing in evil buggers, hitting top speeds of twenty five miles per hour.

what are you looking at?

what are you looking at?

I know dear reader, by now this is beginning to sound like it’s made up! I suppose you think I’m going to say something silly like it’s sting can dissolve human flesh. What … it can … really? That’s it I am never going to Asia.

So what actually bothers Asian giant hornets? Well you do forget that the big evil bugger lives in Japan, which rivals China in the ‘if it moves it must be food’ ethos, where the locals like to eat them deep fried or as sushi, sounds delightful. Not content with eating the wibbly insides of said hornet, there is a very fashionable drink with an extract of giant hornet saliva. Olympic gold winning marathon runner Naoko Takahashi swears by the stuff saying it improves both endurance and the speed of her running. Well if she thinks that drinking its spit makes her run fast she should try meeting one of the buggers.

Bullet Ant

WE’VE MOVED HERE! COME SAY HELLO!

The bullet ant is so named as the power of its sting is said to be as painful as having a lump of searing hot lead travelling at a couple of hundred miles an hour puncture your buttocks, the scary thing is whoever was unlucky enough to name it is probably right. Local tribes also call the ant the ‘twenty four hour ant’ and the ‘AANJEEESSSSUSSFECCCKINGHHAITCHHHHFARRRRK’.

or you could just call me Stevesy?

In fact the bullet ant is said to have the most painful sting in the world according to the Schmidt Sting index. This Schmidt chap was a bally legend who circumnavigated the planet getting smarted by all the creepy crawlies he could. He described the pain of a bullet ant sting as ‘Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over charcoal with a three inch rusty nail in your heel’. Just in case you lovely readers have never had the pleasure of fire-walking-with-a-three-inch-rusty-nail-in-your-heel, Schmidt went on to describe pretty much every stinger you can imagine. He described a paperwasp sting as ‘Caustic and burning… like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut’. Wasp stings get a mention as ‘Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.’ Schmidt described being stung by a sweat bee as ‘light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.’ As you can imagine there was very little that was fruity about Schmidt chap, though he was rather odd.

It’s fair to say that the sting of the bullet ant really really hurts. Not only that, it can bite… hard. In fact it bites so hard that if it doesn’t break whatever it bites the force catapults the ant into the air.

The Satere-Mawe people of Brazil use these formidable buggers as an initiation into manhood. They take the ants, put them to sleep with a natural chloroform, then weave them into gloves, with the stinger facing inwards. Its fair to say that wearing the gloves really really hurts. Thankfully the hapless Satere-Mawe boys only have to go through the initiation twenty times. Explaining why, at least part way, Satere Mawe teenage boys are rather sullen and covered in red spots.

... sewing this chap into warm weather attire is not reccomended...