Thursday, January 8, 2009

Potter Wasp: Craftsmen in Clay
It is interesting to find insects or other creatures building structures out of the same kind of materials that we use. Some times, though, we find that they are even more skilful than human craftsmen using these building materials. Wasps are members of the insect order Hymenoptera, which includes ants, bees, and sawflies. Wasps exhibit remarkably sophisticated behavior and are often helpful, especially to farmers, because they help to check the population of other insects that may be harmful to crops.
This red brown wasp was very busy, scraping up little balls of soil and flying off with them. We stay there for nearly 45 minutes and she was coming for the soil after every 3 / 4 minutes. She already decided the spot, she just sprays some liquid from mouth to wet the dry soil, then standing nearly on her head, begins forming a small ball with her mandibles and front feet. When she is satisfied that the load is sufficient, she takes off with it.
Probably Potter Wasp is the most skilful of all the insect works in clay. The female selects a suitable twig and goes to work. Upon the slender twig she first forms a shallow, thin walled bowl. Then she adds more clay, working wit her mandibles until a tiny, thimble-sized globe with a small neck is formed. Her final touch of elegance is a thin rim about the neck that curves gracefully outward.
Now she goes for hunting, she specializes in caterpillars, which she paralyses with her sting and pokes into the jug through the neck. When she decides the supply is sufficient, she inserts her abdomen and lays an egg, but here again it is a careful operation. To be sure that the semi-conscious caterpillars will not injure her precious egg, she suspends it from the ceiling by a fine thread. Lastly she brings another load of clay which she uses as stopper for her jug. As far as she is concerned the job is now finished and she either flies away or builds other jugs nearby.
The egg hatches into a larva and finds itself surrounded by fresh food to eat. As it develops, the larva eats all the stored, paralysed caterpillars. Mothers provide just enough food to eat – never excess or the caterpillars would putrefy while the larva was in pupal stage. When it is full-grown, its powerful jaws can cut open the end of the jug. For the rest of its adult life, the wasp will never eat meat again, only nectar and sap.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

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