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Parasitic Junk in Your Trunk
March 17, 2014 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Parasitic Junk in Your Trunk "The little monsters jump off the adult wasp host, and scamper over to a wasp nest’s nursery. There they use enzymes to dissolve their way into the larval wasps, drop off their legs, and get busy eating. They wrap themselves in an envelope of their own skin, and also make a blanket from their host’s skin tissue. And here is where things get really weird."
posted by dhruva (58 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
aaaaaand I just barfed in my mouth a little. Thanks for that.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:38 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Wired is doing an HBO trick here, trying to make the evil wasps sympathetic.

Doesn't work on me, nope.
posted by Sauce Trough at 12:42 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


God, this is so creepy it actually made my skin hurt. Like, my feet hurt now. Thanks, dhruva.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:43 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Ain't evolution grand?
posted by zamboni at 12:43 PM on March 17


Given the near infinite variety of parasitic wasps that have life cycles that are at least this horrifying or far worse, this little creature warms my heart.
posted by Dr. Twist at 12:43 PM on March 17 [8 favorites]


It's hard to be sympathetic, knowing that wasps pull this kind of shit all the time.
posted by CaseyB at 12:45 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


This entire order of insects has a life history that will curl your toes. Adults are most commonly found in the butt-ends of wasps. [Mos Eisley cantina band begins playing in background] Their wasp hosts serve as a full-service dining and public transportation system, as well as a hookup spot.
posted by invitapriore at 12:50 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


also make a blanket from their host’s skin tissue

Silence of the Wasps.
posted by yoink at 12:53 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


It's hard to be sympathetic, knowing that wasps pull this kind of shit all the time.


Once again, wasps are bastards.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:54 PM on March 17


Silence of the Wasps.

I CAN SMELL YOUR ENZYMES
posted by history_denier at 12:55 PM on March 17


And you thought they smelled bad on the outside...
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:57 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Wasps, like their close cousins geese, deserve any horror Nature should choose to visit upon them.
posted by Sternmeyer at 12:58 PM on March 17 [21 favorites]


Nature isn't anyone's friend. As Richard Dawkins explained it:

"If the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies ... are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention ... The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference."

Nature (evolution) is neither good nor bad, compassionate nor evil, only pitilessly indifferent to all forms of suffering.
posted by three blind mice at 12:59 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Silence of the Wasps.


"It rubs the lotion on its thorax. It does this whenever it's told. It rubs the lotion on its thorax, or else it gets the hose again."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:59 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


gross
posted by clockzero at 1:11 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


At this point I'm ready to throw a party for head lice for being such reasonable guests.
posted by GuyZero at 1:14 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


aaaaaand I just barfed in my mouth a little. Thanks for that.

If you did nothing useful with your mouth barf you are not up to wasp standards.
posted by srboisvert at 1:15 PM on March 17 [27 favorites]


"Once the female is fertilized, she becomes food for her offspring. Her eggs hatch inside her body cavity and circulate around in her blood as they grow, eating her from the inside out. Creepy; but even more creepy when you know that each female produces between 2500 and 7000 eggs.

THE WORD "CREEPY" DOES NOT EVEN BEGIN TO PROPERLY DESCRIBE....

When the larvae finally emerge, they look like something from War of The Worlds."

THERE IT IS.

One of the comments on the Wired artlcle links to a "Strepsiptera Worldwide - fossils and living" Flickr Group
posted by zarq at 1:31 PM on March 17


I saw Stabby Cock Dagger at the 7th St Entry back in '96. That was before they sold out, of course.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:32 PM on March 17 [10 favorites]


Flagged for OH MY GOD WHY EWWWW OH GOD NOOOO THE BARF HUMANITY UGHHHHHH
posted by The Michael The at 1:38 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:41 PM on March 17 [31 favorites]


Hannibal needs to step up his game.
posted by localroger at 1:42 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


STABBY COCK PARASITE is the name of my new band.

(Also: I hate wasps. M'kay?)
posted by cstross at 1:43 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


I saw Stabby Cock Dagger at the 7th St Entry back in '96. That was before they sold out, of course.

Yeah, "Stabby Cock Dagger Sing the Great American Songbook...Unplugged" was a pretty surprising offering. But it's hard to deny their version of "Surrey With A Fringe On Top."
posted by yoink at 1:46 PM on March 17 [8 favorites]


More like: All things dull and ugly, all creatures short and squat...
posted by rouftop at 1:53 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Don't be so quick to judge. A couple eating nachos under a Snuggie on the couch is pretty close.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:54 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


But it's hard to deny their version of "Surrey With A Fringe On Top."

I preferred "I Want to Marry a Bag of Fat and Eggs like the Bag of Fat and Eggs That Married Dear Old Dad," myself, but that album is a big tent.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:09 PM on March 17 [12 favorites]


For me that falls into the category of Don't Sweat The Small Stuff. It's barely visible on a wasp's behind i have bigger things to worrry about, the wasp itself for starters.
posted by Colonel Panic at 2:09 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


i have bigger things to worrry about, the wasp itself for starters.

It is true, wasps are assholes, but the problem is the parasites are counting on your reaction. We don't help the wasps, the parasites control all the wasps, then they move to us. Of course, if we team up with the wasps to eradicate the parasites, then the wasps will be ungrateful and sting the hell out of us. Because wasps are pretty much complete jerks. Stabby, stabby, poisonous jerks.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:15 PM on March 17


This is fascinating. Thanks for posting.

If you're looking for more animals doing weird, wondrous and wacky things, have a look at Zoologger.
posted by Solomon at 2:16 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Like Amy Leach says in her fantastic book "The Things That Are" -

Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, and insects gotta do one horrific thing after another.
posted by ikahime at 2:30 PM on March 17 [9 favorites]


Well, I'm a WASP, and I am highly offended by your distaste. Come, Muffy, let's to the yacht club. I hope the innkeeper is making stingers tonight. ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 2:34 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Given the near infinite variety of parasitic wasps that have life cycles that are at least this horrifying or far worse, this little creature warms my heart.

It's parasites all the way down.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:44 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


I saw Stabby Cock Dagger at the 7th St Entry back in '96. That was before they sold out, of course.

ITYM "pupated".
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:47 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Once the female is fertilized, she becomes food for her offspring. Her eggs hatch inside her body cavity and circulate around in her blood as they grow, eating her from the inside out. Creepy; but even more creepy when you know that each female produces between 2500 and 7000 eggs.

Well, if my children were going to eat me from the inside-out in order to be "born", I'd want to have more than one, y'know? It's like, with one, you can just tell it's being a brat, because it goes straight for the sweetmeats without eating the less-palatable but more vitamin-rich "broccoli organs". With two thousand chirren, all gumlessly nibbling on your inner pink bits, well, that's just kids being kids, right? Some are going to get to the liver first, and I'm glad of that, because they will be big and strong enough to look after the others. Plus, that's how they find out about the world: by putting it in their mouth. I just hope that, after they consume me and then burst from my empty shell, scuttling away into the nearest sewer, not all of 'em grow up to be financiers. Just one artist would be nice, even if it's something super-lame, like pottery.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:49 PM on March 17 [18 favorites]


Oh, god, turbid dahlia, now I want Nick Park to clay-animate this wasp monologue. Oh, god.
posted by allthinky at 2:53 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


A good word I should have used in there somewhere is "seething".
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:56 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Pony request: threads about bugs / parasites that are more than just "ewww, gross" and variations thereof.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:02 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


And how long until the second vid ends up on YT with a "bow-chicka-bow-wow" soundtrack?
posted by allthinky at 3:11 PM on March 17


Pony request: a pony wasp that infects ponies with parasites that make the ponies aggressive towards humans, and eventually they learn to speak and walk bipedal like
posted by lordaych at 3:13 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Also it must've been a bitch for Noah to collect and harbor ALL THE PARASITES. ALL CREATURES great and small exist because God reasonz
posted by lordaych at 3:15 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, insects gotta do one disgusting thing after another.

(Sorry, Dark Messiah).
posted by ducky l'orange at 3:19 PM on March 17


I revise my previous assessment:

super gross
posted by clockzero at 3:25 PM on March 17


Also it must've been a bitch for Noah to collect and harbor ALL THE PARASITES.

Please. Noah only "lived" to be 1000 years old (it's in the Bible) because he had about sixty-billion different species of parasite all aswarm within him. Their battles for resources inside his person, and their own seething lifecycles, outwardly gave Noah the appearance of sentient locomotion, and even permitted his body rudimentary speech. In reality he had been dead for about three centuries.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:26 PM on March 17 [8 favorites]


Previously on Metafilter Projects.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:43 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Given the near infinite variety of parasitic wasps that have life cycles that are at least this horrifying or far worse, this little creature warms my heart.

Literally.

Then it eats it.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:59 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


At least human botflies have the decency to pop out when they go pupal.
posted by linux at 4:07 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Getting eaten to death from the inside by a squirming parasitic larva is a totally standard death for an insect. In fact, it's probably the most common way to go within class Insecta, even more than being eaten to death from the outside by some kind of predator. As my entomology professor said, "if it weren't for parasitoids, we'd be literally up to our eyeballs in a squirming pile of chittering, chitinous arthropods."
posted by Scientist at 4:13 PM on March 17 [12 favorites]


I'm going back to bed forever

If you need to contact me please don't
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:53 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


G'night and don't let the bedbugs bite
posted by polecat at 5:15 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


Nature SUCKS.
posted by gottabefunky at 5:35 PM on March 17


I bet you could find more than a few human parents that can empathize with the feeling of being eaten alive from the inside out occasionally.
posted by gottabefunky at 5:35 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


The wasps that pollinate fig trees aren't quite so vile.

The wasps that prey on them, however...
posted by Mister Moofoo at 6:55 PM on March 17


Oh man, not Amy Leach (although she's amazing). Annie Dillard!
posted by ikahime at 10:19 PM on March 17


Like in that Annie Dillard book…
Eagle
Bites the weasel
Weasel bites back
They fly
Up to nowhere
Weasel keeps hanging on
Together
Forever
(Laurie Anderson)
posted by five fresh fish at 11:37 PM on March 17


Okay this is frightening...

Parasitic Wasps are an organic gardener's best friend though!

http://cedarcirclefarm.org/tips/entry/beneficial-insect-parasitic-wasp

posted by meta87 at 7:41 AM on March 18


Your Vespid wasps (which are what people generally think of first when you say "wasp") are not parasitoids by the way, though they're not much nicer. They're pretty interesting though, for something that humans tend to consider a bit mundane if somewhat scary.

Your archetypal Vespid (with over 5,000 species there's a lot of variation, but also some common themes) is a social wasp living in a smallish mud-and-spit hive, and hunts caterpillars. They're eusocial (like bees and ants they have a queen and workers, though we're talking maybe a dozen workers at most for a typical Vespid hive) and they hunt caterpillars. Hunting workers will paralyze a caterpillar by stinging it, and then carry it off to the hive where it will be fed (alive, naturally – insects in general just do not care if their prey is alive or not when it's eaten, as long as it can't struggle too much) to the larvae.

That's not the interesting thing though. What I think is really neat about Vespids is that they thermoregulate their hives. If you come across a Vespid hive in a field (or under the eaves of your house, or whatever) chances are you'll see a handful of adult wasps clinging to the outside of it, fanning it with their wings. What they are doing is providing cooling for the hive in order to maintain it at the optimal temperature for larval development. Neat, right? I think so.

I know an entomologist who has stories of some pretty remarkable wasps (I think Vespid wasps, if I recall correctly) that he's encountered while doing canopy research in Costa Rica. They have unusually large hives, maybe 20cm across and up to a meter and a half high, which are built plastered against the trunks of trees. When disturbed (as for instance by a hapless entomologist dangling on a nearby rope) the thousands of workers will come swarming out onto the exterior of the hive, where they will line up in formation like soldiers on parade and begin drumming a synchronized warning call on the hive walls. Apparently this is quite loud, due to the synchronization of thousands of tiny wasp bodies and the resonant acoustics of the hive itself. I'm told that it sounds a bit like a panful of sizzling bacon, albeit lower-pitched.

As if that's not intimidating enough, two of the workers will take off and hover a few inches in front of the intruder's face, tracking his or her eyes as he or she twists helplessly in the air. (Upon encountering this behavior the entomologist in question conducted some impromptu field experiments with balloons, some of which he drew eyes on, to confirm that this was what they were actually doing.) At this point it's generally recommended to get the hell down the rope and back to the ground as fast as one possibly can, before the entire colony lifts off and attacks en masse. Bloody terrifying, you ask me.
posted by Scientist at 6:19 AM on March 20 [4 favorites]


As if that's not intimidating enough, two of the workers will take off and hover a few inches in front of the intruder's face, tracking his or her eyes as he or she twists helplessly in the air.

I am allergic to basically anything that belongs to the order Hymenoptera and has a stinger, and I therefore fear and despise wasps in particular, but I'll be damned if that isn't just the coolest thing that I have ever heard.
posted by invitapriore at 10:14 AM on March 20


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