A great many people were indoctrinated to the charms of the katydid world via "Pinky", the beautiful creature above. A very rare pink color morph, she was exposed to probably over 200,000 people in various media, and many through direct contact as she was exhibited here and there. Today would have been her first day at the Ohio State Fair and had she made that gig and lasted for the fair's duration, tens of thousands more would have come to know her.
But it was not to be. We knew that a parasitoid of some sort was at work, and its larva was within Pinky. Today, when I arrived at the office and went to check on her, she was lying on the terrarium floor, expired.
Tragic is this may be, it opens up another learning opportunity, this time into a little known, horrifying, but pervasive part of nature. WARNING: some of the shots that follow are graphic autopsy photos of the pinkster being subjected to CSI-like study. But it is just a bug, and they aren't THAT graphic!
Entomologist Dr. Norm Johnson in his lab at Ohio State University. Norm was good enough to take time from his schedule to open Pinky up, and see if he could ascertain exactly what happened. He did, as we'll see. Norm is one of the world's top experts on parasitoid insects, especially wasps. The other man is Skip Trask, who was shooting the operation for Wild Ohio TV.
Their modus operandi are varied. Some tachinids lay an egg directly on the host insect. It hatchs and the tiny grub bores into the insect, and eventually grows to the point of what we saw in the photos above. Other flies deposit a tiny grub directly on the host, while others lay an egg near areas frequented by suitable hosts, and the grubs make their way to the victim. Still other tachinids lay eggs on plants that are likely to be eaten by insect hosts, and thus get their offspring into the victim in that manner.
Ah, nature. Life can be cruel and seemingly horrifying once one learns some of the nuts and bolts of how certain things operate. But these sort of relationships have been forged over many millions of years, and are an integral part of the ecosystem whether we like it or not.
But I'll miss the pinkster. Here's hoping we find another next year! Thanks again to Jan Kennedy for finding Pinky, and Cheryl Harner for helping to care for her.