The Giant Japanese Hornet is an Intense Killer Machine

By Anupum Pant

For the sake of knowing, scientists have given the Japanese Giant hornet a name – Vespa mandarinia japonica – a name normally you need not remember. However, there is a thing you should always remember about them. See the picture of this insect below and remember what it looks like. And if you see it coming towards you while you are holidaying in Japan, just run for for your life. This is the Japanese Giant Hornet:

giant hornet

Yes, this giant hornet is a deadly killer machine. You should fear it because…

Well, first of all they are large and fearsome and have stingers that are more than 6 mm long. They use these to inject a relatively large amount of venom into the target – A kind of venom which attacks the nervous system and damages tissues. The venom is also known to destroy red blood cells, which can result in kidney failure and even death in some cases.

Secondly, just read what Wikipedia says about it…

Thirty to forty people die in Japan every year after having been stung, which makes the Japanese giant hornet the second most lethal animal in Japan after humans (bears kill zero to five people and venomous snakes kill five to ten people each year).

Thirdly, these hornets are known to move around in small groups of 20-30 individuals who manage to kill tens of thousands of bees in their own beehive, and then they steal their young ones. About 30 of these giant hornets can kill 30,000 bees in a single attack. They don’t just kill, they rip the bees apart mercilessly. Watch a video of them ravaging a beehive…

Also remember that it won’t come searching for you to sting you to death, until it senses threat.

The Sweet Tale of the Mysterious Tree Lobster

By Anupum Pant

I do realize how big our world is and the sheer number of species that live in it. Also the fact that about 86% of the species are still unknown has me in awe all the time.

Yet, after having read about so many kinds of animals that live on our planet, after having documented them on this blog, I always feel that I’ve known and written it all. The very moment I start losing hope that I would never find an interesting animal ever again, something incredible comes across. Always!

Today, that happened again when I was reading an NPR blog. This time, there’s more than the species itself. The place where it lives is pretty awesome too. The most amazing part – This six-legged giant lives only there. That means, nowhere else on Earth will you find it! First, let’s see where it lives…

This is where it lives:

balls pyramid

I know, it looks like a CG mountain done for a fantasy movie. Trust me, it’s real. It’s called the Ball’s Pyramid (named after a European named Ball who first saw it in 1788) and was formed 7 million years ago due to a volcanic eruption. It is an awkwardly tall (1,844 feet) and an extremely narrow rock sitting in the centre of the sea. To the East of Australia, the red place marker in the following picture shows where the rock is located.

 balls pyramid location

 What lives there? And how was it found?

There is an island – Lord Howe island – close to the rock. In the island lived huge “tree lobsters” (actually they were huge stick insects with a hard exoskeleton – Dryococelus australis). In the year 1918, a ship crashed on the island and brought with it some rats. The rats loved these tree lobsters and finished them off within 2 years. After 1920, these tree lobsters were thought to be extinct.

tree lobster

Of course there were stories of these insects living on a rock near the island. But no human wanted to climb the narrow rock to hunt insects at night.

Only in the year 2001 when 2 researchers David Priddel and Nicholas Carlile decided to climb up the rock to find out if these stories were real, they found something incredible. Poop of a large insect. When the came back at night to investigate, the shiny black huge tree lobsters were found! These insects had probably never been extinct.

For more than 80 years, 24 of them had been living on this rock, in a bush and no one knew how they got there. Probably they clinged on to birds or something. Also, according to the researchers, these creatures have never been seen anywhere else.

Where are they now

I’m not sure about where they are now. According to the 2012 NPR article which I read, a pair of these creatures – Adam and Eve – were brought into Australia. Eggs got laid and little Tree lobsters came into the world. Thankfully, the species was saved from going extinct. But it isn’t known if they’ll be sent back to their home island because the great-great-great grandsons of those rats must still be there waiting to finish these insects off again.

This is how the first ones hatched in the zoo…

Hit like if you learnt something from this article.

The Woodpecker Tongue is a Crazy Weird Instrument

By Anupum Pant

Almost everyone who has learned it in school or has experienced a sleepless night listening to a woodpecker make that tat-tat noise, knows that their straight and strong beaks, are indeed able to make heads turn. These chisel-like tools help them to pierce into dead wood where they may find their food – insects and larvae. They also use these bores as nesting cavities. But that isn’t the only fascinating thing about a woodpecker.

Oftentimes, a woodpecker has to use its secret tool to deal with annoying little bugs that evade the reach of its beak by moving further into a bore – The crazy woodpecker tongue.

Annoying bugs

Present just behind a thick layer of wood are these wood-boring beetles that a woodpecker would love to eat. While hunting for these kind of grubs the strange potential of the woodpecker’s tongue can be noticed. These beetles drill several inches deep into the bore. The woodpecker’s beak helps the bird breach into their homes, but it is only the woodpecker’s tongue that is able to catch and retrieve bugs from deep inside the bores.

Woodpecker’s tongue

A woodpecker’s tongue can reach up to 3 times the length of its beak. It is thin like a spear, and on it are tiny hooks facing up and backwards. The harpoon like tongue can move at incredible speeds and serves two functions – listening and striking. Yes, the tongue can actually listen and track insects inside the bore.

The hooks on its tongue are covered in sticky saliva. This combination of hooks and saliva does not leave a chance for the insects to wriggle off once they are pierced. When the woodpecker’s bill opens up the beetle home, it extends its tongue and probes around to track them. If it locates grubs, the woodpecker skewers the prey with its tongue, the tip of which is hard and sharp. After the tip penetrates the larvae body, the tiny rear-facing hooks hold them in place as the woodpecker retracts its tongue.

Okay! the last mindblow

Sometimes the woodpecker tongue is so long that it forks in the throat, goes below the jaw, then behind the head and finally over the top of its brain, where it rejoins and goes into the right nostril.
Have a nice look at the picture below till I rest my brain for tomorrow’s article.

woodpecker tongue
Woodpecker tongue. Source: Hilton Pond
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