Friday, September 25, 2009

Snug as a Bug in a Bug

If you tend to be squeamish, you should probably glance at the photo and say to yourself, "Nice cocoon!" and move on to another blog or a computer game or something.

The original title was "Snug as a Bug in a Rug", when I found this cozy cocoon rolled up inside an endive leaf as I was picking greens today. I snapped a photo.

Then I did a double-take. You see things in a photo that you don't notice with your bare eyes, esp. using the macro feature to take closeups. Sometimes I snap a photo just like I'd take out a magnifying glass.

What I saw in the photo was legs. A cocoon doesn't have legs, and despite the cozy nest of webbing pulling the leafy blanket around it for protection, this thing had legs (and pseudopods, which is what you see in this photo). But it was as still as a cocoon.

Stiller, in fact. I realized there was a dull, heavy deadness about the thing, instead of the sleek liveliness inherent in a cocoon. I looked more closely, and saw a granular look beneath the translucent skin.

This is no longer a caterpillar. It will never be a cocoon. It has been parasitized, and the entire body except the skin has been consumed by thousands of tiny maggot-like larvae. Unfortunately, in the photo of it broken open to show the larvae, the camera decided to focus on the leaf instead of the broken ends of the parasite hotel. But you can kind of see the odd texture under the deathly white skin.

The world of bugs is an alien, cutthroat place, full of life and death drama and everything in between. Sometimes I'm glad to be a human.

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