No Politics. No Pandemic. Finally, A ‘Good News’ Column

I know, I know. What with my take on death by COVID, civil war by Trump and the end of the world by extreme climate change — reading this column each week can sometimes be depressing. So today I come to you with a much more cheerful subject about the unique and colourful characters that frolic in the wonderful world of Mother Nature. Murder hornets. Cannibalistic wasps. Venomous caterpillars. And brain-eating amoeba.
Of course by Mother Nature, I meant the rich imaginative world of Stephen King on bad crack and malt liquor. Throw in the West Nile Disease from mosquitoes and Lyme disease transmitted by ticks and maybe COVID-19 is doing us all a favour by forcing us to stay indoors. See, you’re feeling better already.
Have you seen those two-inch long, giant Asian wasps who gobble the heads off honey bees in their hive, the way I picture Doug Ford throwing back popcorn while he watches that day’s positive case count on TV? About 10 people in Japan die each year after being stung by murder hornets. Last month a nest of these monsters was found and destroyed in Blaine, Washington. More recently, they were discovered near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Experts in British Columbia believe that that particular swarm of murder hornets grew tired of decapitating thousands of bees to get their sugar fix and were planning a brazen, Talaban-style attack on the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory that makes Nanaimo Bars. Some of the hornets were found to be carrying very tiny explosive devices disguised as M&M’s.
And if you think murder hornets are sick little psychopaths, meet the emerald jewel wasp, the Jeffery Dahmer of the bug world. A parasite with an evil mind, this wasp needs the common American cockroach to live and breed. So the wasp transforms the roach into an unwilling host by stinging it in the brain with incredible accuracy, just the right amount of venom to turn the insect into a zombie. The female then lays one egg on one leg of the cockroach, repeatedly sending low-voltage jolts to the brain to keep it in a coma but still alive so the egg can nourish and grow. The larva chews its way into the roach’s abdomen, dining on vital organs and entering the pupal stage inside a cocoon. With the roach now dead, likely from suicide, the robust baby wasp triumphantly bursts out of the corpse of the cockroach, just like the slimy beast in Aliens exploded from Sigourney Weaver’s chest. Trust me, if the emerald wasp ever mates with the murder hornet, we’ll all be wearing hazmat suits and carrying fire extinguishers filled with Raid.
Sorry, way too negative? I know. So right about now, soft little, black and orange caterpillars are cocooning and in the spring they will flitter forth as beautiful butterflies and… caterpillars! Like the puss caterpillar with their venomous spines that look like a particularly bad John Travolta toupee and are infecting so many people in the southern states of America they will either be extinguished by mass chemical spraying or allowed to live and get their own David Kronenburg movie?!?
One natural solution might be to invade the puss caterpillar’s habitat with… brain eating amoeba. These pesky little gray-matter munchers live in the warm, calm waters of Florida and Texas, killing several Americans every summer. A fraction of the size of a human hair, this single-cell organism crawls up the victims’ nose, along the olfactory nerve and into the cranium where it does to the brain what the emerald wasp did to the unsuspecting cockroach. (You know, in nature you try to be a good host but somehow you always end up on the buffet table.)
Entomology used to be the study of insects and their relation to humans. Lately it’s become a David and Goliath Theme Park where innocent-looking, furry bugs kill things a billion times bigger than them in ways that… well, might make an oriental rat flea fart. The rat fleas’ natural enemy is the Arizona bark scorpion.
Look, I know you feel isolated and lonely, but things could be worse. No one feels more dejected than Mikko, the huge, grumpy-faced grouper and star attraction of Finland’s Ocean Laboratory in Helsinki. The problem is staff keep putting companion fish in Mikko’s tank to cheer him up and he keeps eating them. All of them, even those that are big, venomous fish. COVID-19 closed the lab to the public, so staff threw Mikko a small party for his 16th birthday… all alone.
As a special treat, they put a TV in his tank and stimulated him by brushing his scaly skin with a soft brush. Mikko ate the brush. They quickly removed the TV.
That’s how it starts — all COVID-19 cooped up together, somebody says: “Well, you don’t have to bite my head off!” And the next day the guy who reads your gas meter notices a leg sticking out of the BBQ! Don’t do that.
My point and yes, I do have one is — why worry so much about COVID-19 when there are so many vile, slimy things out there that can kill you just like that? See, I am here to cheer you up!
Any of the ten books written by William Thomas are available at www.williamthomas.ca
Comments: williamjthomas@gmail.com

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