Friday, February 25, 2011

Amazing bacterium protects the world from insect mummies!

Every so often, I run across some delightfully hideous tidbit of information that makes me think the best horror filmmakers in Hollywood can't hold a candle to the grotesque goings-on in the natural world.  Take the aphid.  This small insect lives on plants of all kinds, sucking out the sugar-rich sap and generally wreaking havoc on agriculture worldwide.  Fortunately for the farmers, and unfortunately for the aphids, these little insects are prime targets for parasitic wasps.  And this is where it goes all Alien.  A wasp will swoop down from the sky, land next to an aphid, and, in the blink of an eye, twist its body and stab the aphid.  It doesn't sting the aphid.  It's much worse than that.  In that briefest of seconds, the wasp actually deposits an egg instead of the aphid's body.  Now it's only a matter of time before the aphid has its John Hurt moment.  The aphid will continue on its merry way for a short while, but then, the egg hatches inside its body, and the wasp larva eats the aphid from the inside out to fuel its own development.  Eventually, all that is left of the aphid is a brown husk, and the mature wasp emerges by chewing its way out of the mummified aphid corpse.  Want to see this in action?  Check out this video from Nat Geo below (at 1:18 there is a particularly great shot of a wasp larva moving inside a mummified aphid corpse)..