While sitting on the deck today, I was visited by a wasp and was meaning to sketch him, but found a far prettier one while researching wasps. So for today’s #NatureDoodlewash I’ve imported this little cuckoo wasp from California. I really hate wasps, but as wasps go, this one is rather pretty with its iridescent glow. The one that visited me was just brownish and terrifying and not as interesting to sketch. Apparently, these little parasites are named after cuckoo birds because they also have a penchant for laying eggs in other’s nests, not because they’re insane. Though one has to wonder with that kind of behavior.
You’d think this level of trickery would have made them evolve to look drab, but scientists are stumped as to why they glow with stunning color like a Gay Pride parade float. It was only discovered in 2009 that the color is actually light refracting through spaces in the layers of cuticle in the wasps’ exoskeletons. Despite their fabulous glow, they have to find a way to sneak into the burrows of other wasps to deposit their eggs. When caught in the act, they roll up like an armadillo leaving the host no other choice then to grab them with their jaws and carry them back outside. Eventually, mom succeeds in abandoning her kids and the newly adopted orphans often eat the other kids in order to survive. Yeah, they might be crazy.
It’s interesting to think about how we’re still discovering things in nature. When you find an odd creature, articles will often have headlines like “Scientists Baffled!” though that’s admittedly often clickbait as most times they’re just “rather uncertain” but that makes for a crummy headline. As much as we learn about nature, there’s still so much we don’t quite understand. I think that’s what makes nature so incredible. It’s constantly changing, evolving, and creating more questions than answers. And sometimes, it takes a wasp and dresses it in glittery drag for no reason whatsoever, except to make humans feel like they may also be a little bit cuckoo.
Join me throughout the month of June on a virtual nature hike! Show everyone what you love most in nature with a watercolor sketch or painting and tag your images #NatureDoodlewash so we can all enjoy it with you! I’ll create a featured artist gallery of our global hike at the end of the month!