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Parasitoid wasps and green thorntail; close encounters with different species

Parasitoid wasps… a jungle horror story 

By: Juan Carlos Narváez D.

Imagine being eaten alive by a parasite that feeds on your insides. If this gives you the heebie-jeebies, being a caterpillar in the tropical forest is perhaps not for you. In Mashpi, there is a type of small wasps that mostly belong to the Apocrita super-family within the Hymenoptera order (wasps, bees and ants) that have the characteristic of laying their eggs above the caterpillars of several species of moths and butterflies. Once the wasp eggs hatch and the larvae emerge, they wriggle into the inside of the caterpillar and slowly go about feeding on their host’s soft and fatty tissues, not stopping until it is dead. After killing the host, the larvae leave the body of the caterpillar and make their chrysalis on top of it. The cycle is complete when new wasps leave the chrysalis, ready to attack another unassuming caterpillar.

These parasitoids play a fundamental role in controlling the populations of caterpillars that feed on the different plants in the forest, maintaining the balance needed to not entirely finish of the foliage. It is for this reason that today the benefit reaches beyond these plants: many species of these parasitoid wasps act as an excellent biological control on some plantations. Some kinds of plants have chemical compounds that are modified by the saliva of caterpillars. When the saliva of a caterpillar combines with the sap of the plant, a new aromatic compound forms that attracts parasitoid wasps.

The wasp paralyses the caterpillar and uses it to deposit its eggs. In this way, the caterpillar is unable to finish its biological cycle. This is a kind of mutualism between the plant and the wasp and also works when the plants is attacked, sending a call to the wasp.

Endemic to the Chocó

By: Juan Carlos Narváez

Endemic to the Chocó is a definition that we normally use in Mashpi to refer to organisms that only reside in the bio-region of the Chocó, which means they are unique and can only be found here. A good example of these unique species living in this region is the blue-tailed trogon (trogon comptus). A colourful bird that feeds on insects and small fruit, the trogon can generally be seen around the tree tops. You can easily spot them while comfortably seated aboard the Dragonfly cable car.

Colicerda Verde or Green Thorntail (Discosura conversii)

By: Juan Carlos Narváez

During a visit to our Garden of Hummingbirds we saw a Green Colicerda (Discosura conversii) male constantly visiting one of the flowers and allowed us to take a picture of him performing one of his most important functions in the forest as it is pollination.

She who seals your fate

By: Juan Carlos Narváez D.

If you like history, you should know that the Parcae of Roman mythology and the Moirai of Greek mythology were the goddesses that personified destiny and metaphorically controlled the thread of life of each human being from birth until death. There were three of them: Clotho spun the thread of life with her spinning wheel and her spindle. Lachesis, who made luck, measured the length of the thread of life with her ruler and decided how long you would live. And Atropos, the in evitable, cut the thread and decided when your time was up, choosing the way in which each person would die.

There is a feared dweller in Mashpi who has been given the name of one these Moirai: the Chocoan bushmaster, or Lachesis acrochorda, one of the most venomous snakes in South America that belongs to the viper group, the largest of its kind in the world. Its bite is lethal due to the great amount of venom that it can inject. It is able to bite multiple times and even the bites of its young can be fatal. Due to the fact that the people who have been attacked by this kind of viper have had a low rate of survival, the terrible name Lachesis was chosen: sealing your fate and determining how long you live.

A few nights ago, thanks to the dexterity while walking through the forest of Fernando Arias and José Napa as well as their keen vision, they found one of these snakes crossing the road and were able to make a video that they wanted to share with us.

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