Monday, January 9, 2012


 Ichneumonidae are a large family of wasps in the order Hymenoptera (wasps, bees and ants), They are identifiable because of their antennae-which have more segments most other wasps, extremely long ovipositors(egg laying structures)-often longer than their body, and their wing structure is different than other families if you want to get technical about it. They often have long cigar shaped abdomen, but not in all species.
Ichneumonidae is my favorite family of insects and a strong contender for Most Metal Organism. They earn my vote for this honor with: 1. sheer brutality, 2: literal metal and 3. a Christopher Hitchens-like disdain for god and religion. And they just look fucking cool:

1. Sheer Brutality

Most ichneumon species are parasitoids, the adult laying eggs in the host and the larvae developing within the host's body, often killing it. The main hosts for ichneumons are larvae of other insects. The female injects the eggs with her ovipositor(s), sometimes drilling into the tree that the host is living in. By sensing vibrations made by the host, she can locate it, drill into the tree and lay her eggs in it, through sometimes inches of wood.

Here is the process step by step: (from Wikipedia [check it out because the pic is much bigger])
  1. Tapping with her antennae, the wasp detects and localizes scent and vibrations that indicate a host is present.
  2. With the longer ovipositor, the wasp drills a hole through the bark.
  3. The wasp inserts the ovipositor into the cavity which contains the host larva.
  4. Making corrections.
  5. Depositing her eggs.
  6. Depositing her eggs.
Some species inject venom along with the eggs. The eggs hatch and the larvae develop in the host, feeding off it and killing it before emerging as an adult.

Here's a cool vid from the excellent Life in Undergrowth series on the BBC about an ichneumon that parasitizes caterpillars that live inside ant's nests:

Pretty brutal lifestyle or what?

2. Actually Metal

How do ichneumonids drill into the tree that the host lives in with just a thin ovipositor? How do the adults get out of the tree when they emerge from the host? The tip of the females ovipositor and the adults' mandibles in some species are tipped with actual METAL (zinc or maganese).

3. Disdain for Religion

Philosophers, theologians and naturalists were troubled by the cruelty and br00tality exhibited by organisms such as ichneumonid wasps and cuckoos. How could god create creatures that are so cruel if he is benevolent? Charles Darwin himself wrote:
I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.
Parasites like ichneumonids and cuckoos are and excellent challenge to the benevolence of god and creationism. In real life, shit like "cruelty" and "kindness" don't factor into survival, which is all that matters. As Darwin put it: "Let the strong survive and the weak perish."

All in all pretty fucking metal, and certainly at the top of my list for Most Metal Organism. And before yall get any ideas, I got dibs on writing a song about these sexy hellbeasts.


Jason said...

This was a great post. However, I do believe, O gentlemen, that today, being Monday, was supposed to be MONDAY MORNING MEXICAN PORNOGRIND CORNER!

5h33p said...

You could at least mention Axis of Perdition's masterpiece Ichneumon Method (...and Less Welcome Techniques), couldn't you?
Anyway, science corners are much appreciated :)