Wildbuzz: Mummy got something yummy!
At the PU’s Dr PN Mehra Botanical Gardens, flush with gorgeous waves of golden Rain lilies, a very keen observer of insect life, Arun Bansal, recorded the predation behaviour of a nesting female wasp
The world of Nature, when perceived through the prism of a glib human consciousness, yields “creative” results. But when tested against scientific understanding, they turn out preposterous and comical. So, when an insect is carrying its prey, some ignoramuses come up with explanations such as “one is ill, other is taking it to hospital”! When the insect inserts its prey into a nest hole, it may be interpreted as “usko dafna diya (buried it with full honours)”! The truth, of course, may turn out as verging on the bizarre. The treatment meted out to the prey as “extremely cruel” though an amoral Nature remains blissfully oblivious to such critiques.
At the PU’s Dr PN Mehra Botanical Gardens, flush with gorgeous waves of golden Rain lilies, a very keen observer of insect life, Arun Bansal, recorded the predation behaviour of a nesting female wasp. That wasp was probably a member of the Auplopus genus of spider wasps, the identity as assessed from Bansal’s photographs by wasp researcher, Binoy Chereekandy, of the University of Calicut. Bansal’s sharp eye discerned a characteristic predation fact: the female wasp had amputated the legs of the spider and possibly also stung it to paralyse the prey before dragging it to her nest.
According to Binoy, “Auplopus species construct cells of mud (nests) in sheltered places prior to hunting, where they store spiders from which some or all the legs are amputated...to facilitate prey transport...(the wasp also) closing up the amputated legs in order to prevent the (spider’s) haemolymph from exuding out.”
Once the spider is paralysed/immobilised, the wasp takes the prey inside her nest. The wasp lays her eggs on the prey and covers up the nest. Upon hatching, wasp larvae devour the food kept fresh from decay in the guise of the hapless, paralysed spider.
Of the vast number of spider wasp species, some females have been observed digging a nesting hole with the paralysed spider (legs intact) kept by the side. The female frequently measures the spider to ensure the nest cavity’s opening and inner dimensions accommodate entry and storage of her baby food.
In rhinos, ‘cruel’ stepmums
September 22 marks World Rhino Day to raise awareness about the threats to the world’s five species — Greater One-horned, Javan, Sumatran, Black and White — stemming principally from poaching as the horn allegedly affords an aphrodisiacal recharge. A heartening yet solemn tale of Nature’s varied and “heartless step-mother” ways has emerged from the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam. A two to three month female calf was rescued on September 15, 2023, after she lost her mother. The calf had tried her best to attach herself with other lactating female rhinos but the other mothers rebuffed her, “cruelly”.
Knowing that the motherless calf would find no womanly angel in the wilderness, the emaciated waif was rescued and entrusted to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, Kaziranga, run by the Wildlife Trust of India, Forest department and IFAW. The calf was starving and dehydrated and was fed formula milk immediately. On recovery, she was released into the enclosure with two rescued rhinos on Friday to mark World Rhino Day.
Explaining the rebuff the calf got what may be colourfully labelled as stereotypical of a “scoundrel step-mom”, the centre’s head, Dr Samshul Ali, told this writer: “Rhinos are solitary creatures. A mother will bond strongly with her calf but will reject another female’s calf. In the nearly 50 such cases that we have observed, not one female accepted another one’s calf. We thought that perhaps a mother who has lost her calf will accept an orphan, but even that did not happen. In contrast, elephants are social beings. A herd is led by a matriarch and it comprises the same genetic stock, ie, aunts, sisters and daughters etc and their offspring. An elephant herd will adopt the calf which has lost its mother. Sometimes, even a male elephant adopts a lost juvenile calf. Such empathetic behaviours in elephants can be accounted for by their high intelligence.”