A New Unicorn Praying Mantis
& the Rediscovered Queen Bee
Without fuss, our relationship with insects has been wildly changing lately. First, we considered eating them in case of an apocalyptic scenario. Then came the worldwide alert: bugs are disappearing – led by a bee catastrophic fallout. Whatever happened to our lunch?
Then again, the same science that predicts climate change may cause the extinction of critters and humans alike, keeps finding new species to amaze us all. The latest: a stunning praying mantis, and the reappearance of the giant Wallace bee, not seen since 1981.
Bugs’ otherworldly beauty and, based on what we now know, crucial role in the food chain, reassigns our appreciation of these creatures. So utterly distinct from us, and yet, so essential to life. The poignant note about it all is that we may not get to discover them in time.
It was surprising, for instance, to find out that spiders eat in a year the weight of the entire mankind. Or that beetles, with over 380,000 species, are the most biodiverse, making up to 40% of all insects on Earth. Some would say, no wonder The Beatles are still so dominant.
But even before the troubling notion that we’d need to start eating them – ‘for the protein, they said’ -, they began to vanish. It’s still unclear how they’re being affected by the changing climate, but one thing is for sure: if they go, we all go right after.
A UNICORN IN A BRAZILIAN FOREST
Brazil’s Mata Atlântica, near Rio, is one of the world’s most diverse forests. Older than the Amazon, only 10% is now left from its original size. In this doomed place, however, life thrives, and it’s where a magical creature was discovered, among half a dozen new species.
Science has no place for praying, except for the praying mantis (pardon the poor pun). Their alien appearance is not very popular, though, even when looking like a dead leaf, or an orchid. And then, there’s that business of having their heads eaten while copulating.
Maybe that’s how evolution treated such a mortal threat: by developing horns. The hand-sized Zoolea praying mantis has one, along a pair of imposing metallic-red limbs. Thus, next time you see one, before running, check for the unicorn. And make a wish or something.
THE BEE MISSING FOR 38 YEARS
Over a decade ago, what became known as Colony Collapse Disorder was so serious that scientists feared for our food crops, without bees to pollinate them. Luckily, it wasn’t to be, not because of that, anyway. But bee populations are still declining, and now, other insects too.
That’s why the rediscovery of the Wallace‘s giant bee (Megachile Pluto) in Indonesia is so auspicious. Four times as big as a honeybee, it does not produce honey or live in hives. Also, confirming a trend (more)
* Racy Meals
* Heat Riders
* Honey, We’ve Shrunk the Bees
of the animal realm, the female is much bigger than the male.
But their existence is vital for sustaining life, ever since they were domesticated some 4,500 years ago. They’re in fact, smart enough to share the location of food sources with members of other colonies, and a recent study says, are actually good at basic Arithmetics!
WE DO DEPEND ON EACH OTHER
They’re not, it’s only fair to say though, available to help out with your kids’ homework, or perform at weddings and mitzvahs. Perhaps one of our biggest obstacles for understanding this world is that we need to quit thinking insects and animals are here to serve us.
So if bees are the ‘canary in the mine,’ we’re up to a rude, bitter, awakening. Like all living things, they’ve been depleted by the poisonous chemicals and emissions generated by our lifestyle, and now, by the extreme temperatures of man-made climate change.
It’d be a sad, sad planet if insects were to disappear, but chances are, no one would get to see that, since we’d probably go first. We must choose: save the aliens among us, or our sophisticated way of destroying everything around us will complete its grim task.