Monday, August 09, 2004

Fairy mischief

A new biodiversity study on agricultural land here in Ireland had has it biggest surprise in the discovery of 85 hitherto undescribed groups of parasitic wasps.

Fairy flies, they are called here.

These are not the usual yellow-and-black wasps that buzz around our picnic tables, but rather tiny creatures, many smaller than the head of a pin, that lay their eggs in the larvae and pupae of other insects. As the wasp grows, it feeds on the flesh of its host, eventually bursting forth in a nasty eruption that is often fatal for the host.

I look at the fields outside my window and imagine these microscopic horror shows, these gory hijackings. No one said life was pretty.

Of course, we do our own hijackings to feed ourselves. I just polished off for lunch a tasty mackerel from a neighbor's line. The web of life is all about eating and being eaten. Only humans, apparently, think about it.