Milo and I visisted Montreal's Insectarium last weekend. It was really cool. Not a comprehensive collection of insects, nothing to please the real entomologist, but a greatest-hits display including even non-insects like the (arachnid) tarantula. Actually about a dozen different hairy tarantulas. There is a very disturbing display of a taxidermed tarantula and pepsis wasp engaged in a battle to the tarantula's eventual, agonizing death. The pepsis wasp stings the female tarantula, paralyzing her. Then the wasp lays HER eggs inside the alive-but-paralyzed tarantula's oviduct, then the eggs hatch and the wasp larvae CONSUME the tarantula while she is still alive. Until she isn't. And you thought you were having a rough day.
What do you call that? It can't be parasitism, because that suggests there is some mutual benefit going on; in the event, it's hard to see what's in it for the tarantula. And how did the pepsis wasp evolve that way? Isn't it kind of bizarre that one species can rely so completely on one other species, not for just for food but for reproduction? And how did that first pepsis wasp, fresh from the primordial ooze, say, in its uniquely waspish language, "What's a safe place to lay my eggs, a place where my larvae can incubate and then feast before venturing out into the world? I know! That huge hairy spider over there looks perfect!" If there are any entomologists among the readers of this blog (fat chance), please enlighten us in the comments.
Other highlights of the Insectarium: the softball-sized, glittering jewel-toned beetles from Africa, who can lift 2 kg with their pincers. The stick insects, who are very hard to find among the actual sticks in their terraria. And the scorpions, slightly bigger than tiger prawns, which have so captivated Milo's imagination with their deadly stingers. We bought him some scorpion socks at The Gap today. The Insectarium is part of the massive Olympic complex, where there's also the botanical gardens and conservatory. So we'll be back there soon, I'm sure.
Milo's new thing is making up gibberish words and telling us they're French. The kid's a card. Don't know where he gets it.
Winter is letting up some. Regular above-zero temps now, sun, glovelessness. Spring is nigh!