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    Sunday, August 26, 2007

    Invasion of the Garden Snatchers:
    Late summer is a depressing time in the garden. Allegedly, it's a time when plants don't need much nurturing since they've done most of their growing, which is good, because it's often too hot and buggy to do much work. But it's also, a time when the plants are past their prime and when wild creatures and devouring insects reign supreme.

    What better way to spend a hot, muggy afternoon in the garden than to read J. Henri Fabre. Here's his description of a gruesome menage a trois with a bee, a wasp, and a praying mantis:

    Of the scenes of carnage which the Praying Mantis has left in my memory, let me relate one. The thing happens in front of a work-yard of Bee-eating Philanthi. These diggers feed their larvae on Hive-bees, whom they catch on the flowers while gathering pollen and honey. If the Philanthus who has made a capture feels that her Bee is swollen with honey, she never fails, before storing her, to squeeze her crop, either on the way or at the entrance of the dwelling, so as to make her disgorge the delicious syrup, which she drinks by licking the tongue which her unfortunate victim, in her death-agony, sticks out of her mouth at full length. This profanation of a dying creature, whose enemy squeezes its belly to empty it and feast on the contents, has something so hideous about it that I should denounce the Philanthus as a brutal murderess, if animals were capable of wrongdoing. At the moment of some such horrible banquet, I have seen the Wasp, with her prey, seized by the Mantis: the bandit was rifled by another bandit. And here is an awful detail: while the Mantis held her transfixed under the points of the double saw and was already munching her belly, the Wasp continued to lick the honey of her Bee, unable to relinquish the delicious food even amid the terrors of death. Let us hasten to cast a veil over these horrors.

    That's from Hunting Wasps, though I read it in the anthology Insect World Of J. Henry Fabre. His work is available for free on the internet here, and on the cheap here, and in used, out of print book form here.

    posted by Sydney on 8/26/2007 02:22:00 PM 0 comments


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