The Human Botfly
Imagine a creature, so vile, that it would give the fauna and flora of a Shakesperean nunnery great pause. Such imagery almost describes the evil and nasty horror of our first animal, the human botfly.
The harrowing story that follows explains the rotten evil of a human botfly and why you should buy guide books when traveling. From a certain brave man, and friends, who fell victim in Costa Rica;
“Upon returning home from Costa Rica Mark started to experience a strange pain in his scrotum. He finally mentioned it to me (his wife); we talked about what it could be. Spider bite? Infected mosquito bite?”
It’s important to note here that if you have strange pains in your scrotum, it’s usually a good idea to give the good ol’ doctor a call. Someway or another, it’s bound to be trouble.
“I remember reading something in the guide book from our 1st (honeymoon) trip about a weird bug in Costa Rica. The guide book Explore Costa Rica by Harry S. Pariser said…. “‘Botfly (Dermatobia hominis), whose larvae mature inside flesh. An egg-laden female botfly captures a night-flying female mosquito and glues her eggs on to it. When the mosquito is released and bites a victim, the host’s body heat triggers an egg to hatch. It falls off and burrows in. The larva secures itself with two anal hooks, secreting an antibiotic into its burrow, which staves off competing bacteria and fungi. Its spiracle pokes out of the tiny hole, and a small mound forms which will grow to the size of a goose egg before the mature larva falls out.’”
In case there are any problems with visualizing such a creature, below is a picture of the cute larval botfly (live) that was inside Mark from the story.
The Tarantula Hawk Wasp
During a lecture in undergrad, I had a professor who one day walked in with a mischievous smile on his face and container in hand. Casually, he walked to the head of the room and inverted the container on a desk. Soon a few gasps came from the front row along with uneasy shuffles from a few others. A pretty nice sized tarantula was now on display in the classroom.
Our professor walked around with the tarantula, which he was called in to remove from another faculty member’s house earlier in the day, and it was quite visually apparent that the poor arachnid was going balder than Costanza, specifically in the butt-end region. The reason for this is that tarantula’s have nemeses, namely the the tarantula hawk moth in southern California.
Looking like a creature of fiction, the hawk moth is an animal that likes to use others to raise it’s young. Unlike the bot fly, the hawk moth is more direct in its approach in finding a surrogate nanny.
The hawk moth, specifically the female, is constantly on the look for tarantulas. When ready to lay eggs, female hawk moths will go to great lengths, including teasing burrows, in order to coax a tarantula to come out into the open. When a tarantula does make such a mistake, the wasp stings the spider and injects it with venom.
During an initial attack a tarantula may try to flick it’s barbed abdominal hairs toward the wasp, in defense, but quite often will fall victim to the sting. Once injected with venom, the tarantula becomes paralyzed and the wasp gleefully drags it back to it’s burrow where it will lay a single egg and close the paralyzed spider in the chamber. Once developed, a grub emerges from the egg and flips backward to “juice” the spider. After the grub’s final molt, it usually rips open the spider’s abdomen and ravenously eats what is left inside.
If it turns out reincarnation is the key to life, and you come back as a tarantula, make sure not to fall victim to the gold-digging ploys of a hawk moth.
Memories of a jellyfish sting usually bring thoughts of a little pain, but that usually gets clouded by memories of good beach fun. There are some jellyfish, however, that will leave you dead if you happen to bump into them and aren’t prepared. Such is the box jellyfish.
One of the most dangerous sea creatures, the box jellyfish accounts for more deaths than sharks or any other marine animal. This cube-like animal has a body of around only 20 cm, but its danger lies in the nematocysts found on its tentacles. Like a sea-ward reggae star its tentacles, found on each of it’s corners, can grow to about 3 meters (about ten feet) in length, or about the size of a regulation NBA basketball goal.
Each of the tentacles can contain up to 5,000 of the “stinging cells”, commonly called nematocytes. Its toxin can be very fatal to humans and is why it can easily cause death. As luck would have it, the stinging parts of the jellyfish are activated by chemical compounds that are found in human skin. In no less than three minutes after contact, a box jellyfish can kill you.
It would be fun if we could grow superweapons on our bodies. Imagine the fun of pranking friends by popping them with superheated gas that you could shoot at will. For the bombadier beetle, this is reality.
When threatened by an enemy, the beetle is able to mix a chemical cocktail in a thick-walled gland. This process yields a temperature of 212 degrees (100 C) from the mixed chemicals. When ready, the beetle triggers the release of an anti-inhibitor to it’s chemical cocktail which causes an explosion and a nice popping noise. The stream of chemicals and spray released is enough to blind or wound a would be predator, and can cause great pains in a human.
Like a true bomber, the beetle can produce around 20 of these explosions per minute and aim with pinpoint accuracy. If an animal tries to flank it, or run away from it’s abdomen, it’s not a problem and the animal will still be screwed. The beetles have specialized sheaths that can aim it’s explosive cocktail forward or any other direction. If genetic engineering ever allows it, I want a dogcat with this ability.
With all the quills sticking about one would think the ritual would be short and tedious. It turns out that porcupines have some questionable morals and are into some strange stuff.
The ritual kicks off with the male, using its poor sense of smell and eyesight, tracking down a female porcupine who leaves scent cues and a cat-like noise to let males know she is ready to mate. A male may walk about at times growling, hopping on three legs and in Al Bundy fashion, resting a free paw on it’s genitalia and fighting other males it may come across to determine the most superior male of the suitors. The brawls between the males can be quite brutal, with some porcupines being hit with more than 1500 quills.
When a female is nearby and may be receptive to advances, a male porcupine will raise it’s tail and begin to walk on its hind legs. This point is when the male’s penis becomes fully erect. This is also where things take a turn, as described by porcupine expert Uldis Roze in The North American Porcupine;
“Perhaps the strangest aspect of the interaction is male urine-hosing of the female. The male approaches on his hind legs and tail, grunting in a low tone. His penis springs erect. He then becomes a urine cannon, squirting high-pressure jets of urine at the female. Everything suggests the urine is fired by ejaculation, not released by normal bladder pressure…. In less than a minute, a female may be thoroughly wetted from nose to tail.”
If the female likes the male, she will raise her tail and underside and continue to mate with the male through a half-day until the male reaches the point of complete exhaustion. If the female doesn’t like the male, she’ll either run away or give a prickly surprise to the poor guy.