"And they attacked. A dozen furious wasps, large as a hand, swooped on her, stinging and biting. She screamed so loudly!"
"We watched her fall, continuously struck by angry monsters. We watched her die... It felt like hours, of her screaming in pain and agony. We were helpless, we were terrorised."
Passages from the field journal ca[Our days in the Sea of Green]
written by Aard Javic Makov
during a scientific expedition in the jungle in 758.II. It refers to the accidental death of Leen Latour, wife of Johaas Latour during the expedition.
This morning I talked with a fellow traveller. It was a merry discussion, but when I told him my name, his face promptly became serious. He told me he knew this name from a long time ago, and of course, I quickly mentioned tmy grandmother. His memory was sharp, because she died years ago, and she was not that famous. But I guess her death in the Sea of Green contributed to the success of Aard Javic's journal.
From this point, we ended up talking about staggerwasps, this traveller and I -kalsh, I don't even remember his name. He got me started on an insect, so got carried away; without realizing it, I gave him the full course on these creatures, all of what grandpa and grandma have learned, written and told me about them.
I want to write about staggerwasps now.
The Hypoptera genus comprises thirty-five known species. They are all social, which means they live in colonies. in the colony, only the queen lays eggs, and the other females are sterile. The males are much fewer in a colony, and they almost constantly fight for who gets to mate with the queen, and sometimes they even kill each other. The nest is made of dried mud. It's built as a large tube along a tree trunk or any other rough vertical surface. Inside it, all the way to the top, are the larvae. They hang on the nest walls with a kind of suction cup at the end of their abdomen.
The larvae feed on meat. Their insatiable appetite must be fulfilled by the workers, who hunt day and night for slugs, snails, insects... Anything that can be carried back to the nest is good.
To kill their preys, the wasps pack a fearsome weapon: The adults have a long and thin stinger below their abdomen, that they use to inject a potent poison.
Even humans are not safe from their stingers, as did my grandmother experienced first-hand... There are examples of people who lost a whole arm to necrosis after a wasp sting. But most often, a single sting is said to cause long-lasting, excruciating pain, often ending in the victim passing out. It's rare but some people can fall into a coma or die from a single sting. It's not the same story when a whole colony of wasps are picking on an unfortunate passerby. The amount of poison delivered by a dozen stings can be enough to paralyze and kill. People litteraly die from overwhelming pain.
It is easy to feel why people living in the soutwest fear them so much. Yet they are fairly interesting despite the danger they embody, and are worth looking at -from a distance however- for their incredible behavioural displays. Their ways of communication are mysterious and incredible: they seem to dance with each other, and talk with their postures.
but the most interesting thing with staggerwasps is their colours. Some species have iridescent wings that flash brightly when hit by the sun. Some have bright yellow to deep red colours, often with contrasting stripes, spots or even, for a species living in the Sea of Green, a greenish yellow damier pattern on their thorax and abdomen.
The smaller species is the northernmost one. Not bigger than a grain, Microhypoptera viridis can be found in the northern part of The Nool Chain. It's by far the least dangerous by its smaller doses of poison, but the colonies host way more workers -up to a thousand.
In contrast, the biggest known species is called Hypoptera sanguinea. It lives in the lowlands of the Sea of Green and is recognisable with its red and black stripes and its sheer size, more than a cross long for the queen.
When I think about staggerwasps, I understand why my grandma was so passionate about them. Even if it led to her demise, I don't think that she would have wanted to go any other way. Looking at the wasps feels like looking at one's fate directly in the gaze of the divinity of nature, and for Sen is to decide if you will be able to escape a dangerous fate or not. Nature is as beautiful as it is scary, and as mesmerizing as it is deadly. And these wasps are no exception.
Leen Latour Jr.