Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Abominable Blister Beetle

To those like Clifford Goldstein (“One Lord or the Other”, Adventist Review, August 20, 2009) and F. J. Ayala ("Darwin's Greatest Discovery: Design Without Designer", 2007, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 104 (Suppl 1): 8567–73.) who make authoritative arguments designed to force a choice between creation and evolution to explain life on this planet, I offer the life cycle of the Abominable Blister Beetle. Are other choices possible?

“Reporting recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Leslie Saul-Gershenz and Jocelyn Millar described the case of the abominable blister beetle and the benighted solitary bee. Blister beetles live in the southwestern deserts of the United States. Females lay their eggs in grassy patches where solitary bees forage. The beetle eggs all hatch simultaneously, and the thousand or so newborn larvae immediately gather together into a tight formation. They form a nice oval shape, all dark and fuzzy. They travel as an inseparable unit, up and down the blades of grass. They look and act just like—a female solitary bee.

Before long, they start releasing a pheromone mimic, and now they smell like a female bee too. A male bee lands on what he thinks is a mate, and the blister pack clings to him en masse. Disappointed by the encounter, and seemingly unaware of his cargo, the male bee flies on in search of new love. Should he find and approach a real female bee, the beetle larvae will instantly abandon him and cling to her. The female will take them where they want to go, back to her well-provisioned nest. The larvae will deplane, settle down, and gorge themselves to maturity on nectar, pollen, and, best of all, the bee's eggs.”

The Art of Deception by Natalie Angier
National Geographic Magazine
August 2009