Monday 29 August 2016

Thread-legged Bug

Image: Carlos De Soto Molinari
It's the 21st century and such things as agriculture, antibiotics and the ever-increasing speed of bad news have conspired to ensure that there are more humans alive today than ever before.

And you know what that means...

Image: Frupus
Grim Reapers have never been busier. You can scarcely move for the fields of life awaiting harvest. Everywhere you go its swish, swish. Here a swish, there a swish, everywhere a swish swish. It's murder on your back, assassination on your legs and a merry massacre on all those annoying little wrist bones. But there's one thing that needn't suffer, and that's your scythe.

Because while it's a bad tradesman who blames his tools, that doesn't he mean he can't praise them!

Image: Andy
Introducing the Emesa range of scythes for the 21st century: traditional agricultural technology wedded to the very latest innovations in design and technology. It's a match made in your preferred afterlife of choice!

Emesa scythes are dual-bladed as standard. Each individually attached blade can be easily and securely placed into an 'open' or 'closed' position to suit your style and situation. Swish and swing with a traditional single-blade setup or deploy both blades to hack your way through those tenacious customers who don't know the end credits when they see them.

Image: Ian Morton
Emesa scythes are furnished with four, fully-functioning legs, sensory perception and security features. Never lose a scythe! It'll follow you everywhere. Worried about those unruly poltergeists? Then worry no more! Emesa scythes know their master and will defend themselves against theft and vandalism with extreme prejudice and stabbing.

Early adopters may be disappointed to find that their shiny new scythe is approximately 0.5 to 4 cm (0.2 to 1.5 in) long but hey, it's proof of concept!

Image: John Flannery
It's also an insect. Emesinae is a whole subfamily of Assassin Bugs found across much of the world, though most of them live in the tropics.

Thread-legged Bugs are true bugs, which means they have piercing, sucking mouthparts that look like a long, pointy straw. More specifically, they're Assassin Bugs, and that means they're not satisfied with the (tree and plant) sappy diet of other true bugs like aphids, cicadas and stinkbugs. They prefer insect blood. They pierce the exoskeleton of their prey and suck out the insides.

Video: Naturalista Scienze Naturali - Andrea Bonifazi
Never lose a toothpick!

Even more specifically, they're Thread-legged Bugs. That means they walk around on four long, impossibly thin legs and grab prey with their raptorial, mantis-style forelegs. And then they stab them in the back with their pointy mouth and suck out the fluids. It's assassination, but it's not for money. It's strictly refreshment.

Most Thread-legged Bugs are not just impossibly thin in the leg department, they're also extremely slim from head to tail. They often look rather woody, too, like toothpicks camouflaged among trees and plants. They're just like stick insects! Blood-sucking stick insects with long, spiky, predatory forelegs. Thank goodness they're less than 2 inches long rather than over 2 feet long like some of the stick insects out there. Or one of the stick insects out there.

Image: Frupus
Lots of Thread-legged Bugs prowl the night, seeking out insects to plunge the ol' mantis-arms into. But some are a little different.

Species like Australia's Stenolemus bituberus spend almost their entire lives in spider webs. Youngsters moult there, shedding their exoskeleton and waiting patiently for their new armour to harden. Adults mate there, getting together and getting together among the gossamer threads.

Image: Ian McMillan
They also eat there. On the one hand that makes perfect sense since they eat spiders. On the other hand it's utter madness because THEY EAT SPIDERS! How does a spindly, little bug eat a venomous, web-spinning spider? The answer is obvious: with great care.

It's no easy feat to catch and eat a spider in its own web, not when you're a weedy insect no bigger and significantly thinner than the spider. You can't exactly march in there and say 'look how thin I am! I need to eat you a lot more than you need to eat me.' Spiders are impervious to logical argument, so something a little sneakier is in order. And no, it's not crafty illogical argument.

Video: SixLegTv
Just popping out for some dinner. I may be some time.

It's... sneaking, basically. Most spiders are not at all famed for their fantastic eyesight. What they're good at is sensing and interpreting vibrations in their web. Also stabbing and poisoning with a pair of venomous fangs, but it's the vibrations first. And so the Thread-legged Bug sneaks, slowly, slowly, walking with a strange, erratic gait that, to the spider, feels nothing like a bug sneaking up on it. Maybe it feels like a leaf, or drops of water, or a breath of wind. After a while it feels exactly like getting stabbed in the back. Interpret this!

Things are easier on a windy day. With the web fluttering in the breeze, Thread Legged-bugs feel confident to creep up much more quickly, using the wind as a smokescreen to mask their movements. It's like a ninja making use of a handy fog after he's run out of smoke bombs.

But that's not where the sneakiness ends! In fact it's barely begun, because the sneakiest thing they do is pretend to be a tasty insect stricken in the web. "Oh no!", they say, "woe is me! For I am trapped. Trapped! Lost and alone and harmless and trapped! I couldn't hurt a fly! I might even be a fly! Whatever will become of me?"

Of course they say all that in a language the spider can understand, which is basically an interpretive dance that creates appropriate vibrations in the web. The spider investigates the source, hoping to overpower that harmless and trapped prey and its like "muhahahahaaAAARGH!" when the Thread-legged Bug turns around and stabs it with a pointy mouth.

Yeah. Life is tough when you have four-legged, dual-bladed scythes with sensory perception and stabbing capability creeping around and using tactics.


Unknown said...

I love how it raises the scythes over the unsuspecting spider, then BOOM it's dead now.

Joseph JG said...

It's really cool! It's like some Nosferatu thing!

Esther said...

If their legs were any skinnier they'd be non-existent!

Joseph JG said...

Yeah, impossibly spindly. I love all those cave crickets and crane flies, now I have a whole 'nother group of spindle legs!