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Friday, October 7, 2016


I've had a number of postings on cockroaches, my most recent just last month.  My overwhelming thought about them is to squash, squirt (Raid) or trap (Hoy-Hoy) those critters.  I'm all for using those next generation genetic engineering tools like CRISPR to permanently eliminate them.  Many a dining discussion at 15 Craigside centers on giant flying roaches.  Why?  Not one person likes them, and a typical joke is that one of us, at least, will be reincarnated into a cockroach.  Can you imagine living your next life among them?  Do, because this whole story today is predicated on your being a roach. 

So, therefore, you wonder how I can possibly feel sorry for any cockroach.  The natural world is cruel.  Yesterday I was reading Scientific American and came across an article entitled ZOMBIE NEUROSCIENCE, subtitled, How a Wasp Turns Cockroaches into Zombies.  The science was a bit intimidating, so I'll simplify the presentation:
  • Only female wasps are so demoniacally brutal.
  • Apparently, the life cycle of the jewel wasp is such that the mother needs to find a cockroach to serve as the host meal for its offspring.
  • Thus, the victim needs to be kept alive during the entire stage of the egg/larva growth period, which is a little more than two weeks.
  • How does the mother do this?  Sounds like a Hollywood script, but:
    • seeing a roach, the wasp attacks from the front, and twice stings two specific ganglia (like portions of your brain)
    • one sting paralyzes the front legs, and the other neutralizes the escape reflex
    • (this gets gruesome, so you are forgiven if you skip this posting) then the mother chews off half of each roach antennae, mostly to regulate the amount of venom, because too much could kill and too little will enable the roach to escape before the end of the 15-day cycle
    • as the roach is bigger than the wasp, the victim is simply led into a burrow by pulling one antenna
    • the mother lays an egg on the abdomen
    • on exit, the entrance is filled with pebbles
    • after three days, the egg hatches, for five days the larva feeds on the live roach, but then chews its way into the abdomen and lives for another week or so inside the roach while consuming the internal organs (I told you this would be ghastly--but if you enjoy this stuff, click on a video of how all this happens)
    • through this whole process, the roach needs to still be alive
    • the fully grown wasp then leaves the burrow
    • a female will mate once, which takes a minute, and for the next several months paralyzes several dozen roaches (hooray, I like this part--I wonder how we can get more of them to come to Nuuanu Avenue)
Can you imagine if you were this roach?   You think you have a tough life, or like a resident of 15C, dread the thought of the second floor?  I'm glad I'm a human.  If nothing else, this recounting of what happens in nature should convince you to be good so that if you are reincarnated, you won't next become a cockroach.

As a final aside, during my research, I uncovered a surprise.  In 1941 this jewel wasp was brought into Hawaii to control cockroaches.  So I've seen them around, not recently, but in my youth.  In fact, one day I put on a shoe, felt a significant wiggle, took it off, and out flew one of these wasps.  Almost got a heart attack.  It could have paralyzed my toe and who knows what else.  Like the mongooses imported to rid the islands of rats, though, these wasps also just did not do their job, and this had something to do with some territorial tendency of this specie, whatever that means.

Too early yet to fully assess the damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew, but here are some early financial estimates:

In comparison:

Certainly, the death toll will be in the hundreds, but if Fortune is right, the recovery cost will be horrendous.

Here are the current meteorological graphics:


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