Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Totally True Tuesday

Toxic vapour cannons and beak-swords…

Is it the newest in video game fun? Perhaps, a box-office, sci-if thriller? Not quite. Actually, these are weapons used by some very unusual bugs.


The beetle is cornered by a nasty predator – the frog.

Like machine gun fire, the beetle blasts its clueless victim.



It’s a direct hit to the face with three shots of toxic vapour. The frog leaps about in pain. The beetle scurries off to safety.
When it comes to chemical warfare, the Bombardier (bom-buh-deer) Beetle is the master. How? Chemicals are formed in a special organ found in the beetle’s body. This organ has two separate chambers where the toxins are formed. When the beetle feels danger is near, these chemicals mix together in another chamber. Here it’s heated to the point of boiling. It then explodes out. This gassy cloud burns and may even leave a blister.
The Bombardier Beetle also has a cannon-like rear end and can aim and fire where ever it wants. It’s found throughout the United States and Southern Canada.

The insect creeps along a leaf. Its six legs are slow and silent. Its wings are tucked in tight. The tough grey body has a pointed, wheel-like ridge. The victim hasn’t a clue what’s about to happen.

Suddenly, it lunges forward, grasping the prey. Swiftly it clamps onto the fly and plunges down its sword.

The wheel bug is one of the largest insects in the assassin bug family. It’s 35 mm in length. The Wheel Bug also has two long antennas and a thin, narrow head. It’s from this special shaped head that its secret weapon is kept – the beak-sword. This works like a sharp drinking straw. The wheel bug stabs its victim, filling it up with it a dangerous spit. Within 30 seconds the victims innards have turned to a soupy mush.

The assassin bug now slurps away for about 2 hours.

These fascinating bugs can be found in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains and in South Eastern Canada.


Mom senses danger. It’s a villainous wasp hovering just overhead. She quickly gathers her 24 nymphs under her triangular body.

The wasp approaches.

Mom frantically waves her antennae. Not fazed, the wasp flies even closer. Mom turns her tough, shield-like back and quickly buzzes her wings. The wasp ignores her threat and lands just out of reach. Mom kicks out her middle and back legs in another attempt to scare it off.
It works. But the determined wasp only takes to the air and darts back and forth.

One of the nymphs edges out to see what all the commotion is about. The wasp speeds towards it. Mom’s ready and silently drops her most powerful secret weapon…the stink blob. The wasp catches a whiff of this noxious smell and zips away in the opposite direction. Lunch will have to wait.

Stink bugs range from 6 to 12 mm in size and come in various colors. Most are brown, grey and green. Some, like the harlequin stink bug, are black with bright yellow or orange markings. All stink bugs have a large triangular structure on their backs. This raised covering points towards their hind end and is called the scutellum. As their name suggests, stink bugs also produce a chemical so noxious and foul that most insects and animals are repelled by it immediately. However, the stench-gob is used only as a last resort since it saps the bug of most of its energy.

Not all insects are as protective of their young as the ‘parent bug.’ She will still protect her young even when they’re old enough to be on their own. When the young wander off they secrete a scent trail. If in trouble they send out a powerful alarm scent. It’s Mom to the rescue as she follows this scent path right to her nymph.

If you want to learn more about these and other weird insects, visit your local library, the internet or an insect museum. And remember, the next time you see a bug, don’t bug it…you never know, it might just be loaded.


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