Tag Archives: bugs

Lonomia obliqua caterpillar: prickly little beast

In the rainforests of South America lives a fragile and lovely caterpillar–lonomia obliqua— that will kill you if you let it. Be warned, dear readers, that they are often found–or rather, go unnoticed– on the bark of trees, which provides perfect  camouflage for the nasty, homicidal little  lepidoptera.

There they lurk in unassuming wait for travelers to lean against their trees, and to unknowingly brush against one of their numbers. Scientists will tell you that the powerful anticoagulant venom is a defensive mechanism, but the author of BV knows different. Lean in close to your screen, now: they are in league with evil forces and poise dto take over the world. It’s all very hush hush.

Ahem. On a practical note, symptoms of Lonomia obliqua poisoning include “severe internal bleeding, renal failure and hemolysis.”  A lethal dose of the toxin is minuscule, among the lowest of all known toxins. Brush against two of these villains and you’re meat.

To wit: though the lonomia family is responsible for only .1 % fewer toxin-related deaths than are rattlesnake bites,  should you be injected by the caterpillar, it would only take one one-thousandth volume of venom (versus the average snakebite) to do its work. One shudders to think.

So dear readers, should you find yourself in a Brazilian rainforest, mind the trees, forget the snakes, and beware the caterpillars.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Phobia-inducing, the insect world, the strange and the beautiful, tiny animals, Uncategorized

BV-worthy new exhibit

 

The California Academy of Sciences has long been beloved by the author of BV, figuring in her elementary school field trips, and, more recently, looming large in her consciousness as an example of stunning sustainable architecture. And a friend is employed there, I am proud to say, as a plant taxonomist– though, traitorous wench that she is, she will soon be abandoning us all to pursue a PhD in Chemistry on the east coast.

Pah. stupid PhD in chemistry. Stupid east coast.

In any case, If you would like to see an exact cast of Ida, the  Darwinius masillae that is a distant cousin of all of us today, you can do it at this exhibit. You can also learn about extreme adaptations (neat!) , reproduction (wink wink, nudge nudge) , and extinction (boo!).

Personally, the author of BV is excited to learn that the state fossil of California, Smilodon Fatalis, will be on display. She is also not a little bemused to discover that california *has* a state fossil.

which led the author on a rather amusing little digression into internet research-land, where she discovered the following:

California has the expected emblems, that is, a  state…

BIRD: California Valley Quail
ANIMAL: California Grizzly Bear
TREE: California Redwood

as well as a

 song
 seal
 motto
colors
nickname
flower
and flag (social studies history reports come flooding back to some of us) 

But is also has a state…

FOSSIL: Smilodon Fatalis (sabertooth tiger, see above)
INSECT: California dog-face Butterfly (well, it’s mother thinks it’s beautiful)
FISH: California Golden Trout
MARINE FISH: Garibaldi
MARINE MAMMAL: California Grey whale
REPTILE: the Desert Tortoise

not to mention:

 gemstone
Gold Rush ghost town
 Silver rush ghost town
grass
military museum
mineral
Fife and drum band (very cool)
Prehistoric artifact
rock
soil (SOIL!?!?! we have an official  SOIL. inconceivable)
tall ship
tartan
and theater.

And a poet laureate to write about all of ’em. (Which she doesn’t, at present. She seems to write a lot about love and death and architecture. But that’s a snap judgement)   

Seriously. Don’t believe me about the soil? look here. And expect a California series on BV in the near future.

sick of my rambling and want to read more about the exhibit? Read the articles from SFGATE and/or SFAppeal.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, endangered species, extinct species, human behavior

Bejeweled Insects

Every so often, dear readers, the author of BV is struck positively speechless (shocking, I know) by an image from the animal world. In this case, these  include the  images of Miroslaw Swietek , Martin Amm, and Jens Kolk (see a sample of Swietek’s work, above, and photographs by Amm and Kolk, respectively, below)  and they are so exceedingly beautiful that for once, the author has nothing snarky or otherwise sideways to say about them. These photographers used a macro lens and flash in the wee hours of morning to catch “sleeping” insects wet with dew.  Follow the links above, and at the bottom of this page, and enjoy.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1260946/The-stunning-pictures-sleeping-insects-covered-early-morning-dew.html

http://seawayblog.blogspot.com/2008/03/insects-in-morning-dew.html

Leave a comment

Filed under backyard fauna, the strange and the beautiful

Happy Birthday to an Angry Old Canard!

 

Donald Duck is 75 today!

The angry old canard’s full name Donald Fauntleroy Duck, and his official birthady is recognized today to commemorate the release of his debut film, The Wise Little Hen for which, true to the bad luck for which he is famous, he didn’t even get a screen credit.

He was recognized in 1942, however, when he recieved an Oscar for his appearence in the short film Der Fuehrer’s Face in which Donald plays a worker in an artillery factory in “Nutzi Land,” and who can ever forget such classics as “How to have an Accident at Work?”

You can, dear reader? well, shucks. here ya go:

let’s face it, If there is one star on teh walk of fame that the author of Bv can get a real kick out of… it’s the Duck’s.

Leave a comment

Filed under exceedingly cute, human behavior

Parasitic Wasps, part deux

A friend to BV has alerted the author to the following video, as a follow-up to a recent posting on parasitic wasps. His advice? Not to watch this while eating lunch.

Dear readers, heed this wise man’s advice. But *do* watch. The effects of the “wasp virus” may be among the more bizarre phenomena of the animal world. (And far more innteresting than the swine flu, anyway).

cheers, Isk, for the tip.

Leave a comment

Filed under backyard fauna, parasites, Phobia-inducing, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

The Ant-lion (lion ant)

img8107

The entire premise of Bestiarum Vocabulum, as some of you might know, rests on the genre of the medieval bestiary ( or bestiarum vocabulum). It is therefore meet that we occasionaly visit the archives for entries, as part of an ongoing medievalist series. 

Take, for example, the Ant-Lion, of whom Adhelm, abbot of Malmesbury (639-730)  once wrote the following riddle:

Dudum compositis ego nomen gesto figuris :
Ut leo, sic formica vocor sermone Pelasgo
Tropica nominibus signans praesagia duplis,
Cum rostris avium nequeam resistere rostro.
Scrutetur sapiens, gemino cur nomine fingar !

I long have borne the name of hybrid form :
Both ant and lion I am called in Greek
A double metaphor, foreboding doom ;
My beak cannot ward off the beaks of birds.
Let wise men search out why my names are twain.

 

And why are the Ant-lion’s names twain? There are two possible answers. In the first, the Ant-lion is a large, fierce insect. This is likely Adhelm’s opinion, one shared by Gregory the Great ( Moralia in Iob, Book V, chapter 20, section 40), and Isidore of Seville (Etymologies, Book 12, 3:10), and other venerable medieval types.

But there is another possibility: that as the result of a mating between a lion and an ant, the Ant-lion has the face of a lion and and the body of an ant.  And this, dear readers, is the interesting answer, made more interesting by its tragic ending.

Because the Ant-lion is at gustatory war with itself.   Belying the Latin dictum “de gustibus non disputatem est,” the lion’s head will only eat meat, while the ant body can only digest grain. The ant-lion, divided against itself, inevitably starves.

Very sad.

… but the author of BV, as you might expect, is having a difficult time getting past the basic premise of this explanation, which is that an ant can mate with a lion. The mind. boggles.  at that visual.

 

 

…and should any reader find him or herself with a bit of free time and a clever pen (ahem), renderings of said illicit act will be gladly posted in a future posting. But *try* to keep it PG13.

Leave a comment

Filed under academia, extinct species, medieval, parasites, Phobia-inducing, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Cane toads just can’t catch a break

cane-toad-2

Once upon a time, 101 Cane toads were  deliberately introduced to Australia, under the premise that they would eat the beetles ruining the sugar cane crops, ridding the farmers and population of a costly pest. Yet as we have learned time and again, the road to hell is paved with non-native species.  The population of poisonous cane toads exploded in Australia, the toxic toads started causing deaths of native species, and a variety of measures were sought to mitigate the new-and more obtrusive- problem, including:

1) Golf clubs (the author of BV cannot reccomend this, though she does understand the sentiment)

2)freezing 

3) gassing

 

But now, scientists believe that they may have found “a more natural way” to kill these killers: Meat ants.

…Yes folkes, this is another one of *those* posts.

Meat ants, a carnivorous species native to Australia,  have been observed eating cane toadlets, leaping upon them and devouring them alive. Or dead, however they find them.  Unlike the native toad species, moreover, the cane toads have not evolved defences to meat ants as have their Aussie counterparts. Simply put, “they do not hop away.”

Not one to hook his wagon to just any star, the mayor of Darwin and Frogwatch coordinator, Graeme Sawyer doubts that these ants can come to the rescue, as they “just don’t eat enough toads.”

Who knows whether sending the toads to swallow the beetles, and sending the ants to swallow the toads will end in tragedy… But the author of BV is put in mind of a childhood song …

Leave a comment

Filed under backyard fauna, human behavior, Phobia-inducing, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized