Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wasp (Red wasp, Malay = Tebuan)

When I was a young boy living in the rural Malay village, I did not realise how dangerous these insects are. We knew somehow not to go too near them, they sting, and they sting really bad. It did not matter if only one attacked you but when they come in swarm then you are in big trouble. My father was once bitten by a swarm of them, and after that his hair turned white where he got stung on the head. Actually then it was not difficult to get bitten by these insects; in the tropical jungle they may make their nests anywhere at medium height on tress or even in the undergrowth attached to a grove of rattan or a clump of bamboo.



In the urban area it may be a different setting but they are as dangerous.

And when you accidentally disturb them then they come after you maybe one at a time initially but as you panic and try to run then whole nest occupant may come after you, and in a nest there are maybe hundreds of them. How fast you run they can still go after you, and in a jungle or even in the tropical undergrowth, how fast can you run before you trip?, either on roots of trees or even small trees in your path or even big logs that fallen along a clear jungle path. In an open ground you might just outrun them but they will chase you to almost ‘the end of the flat earth’. They say that if you are near a body of water, or a river, you may take something that can float, say a coconut or even your hat, you jump into the water and let the thing that float floats and you dine into the water holding your breath underwater. The insects will attack the floating object. But in reality how long can you hold your breath underwater (if you can swim that is) or if you do not panic can you just swim under water away from them. If luck is on you side you might just be safe while the insects go after the floating object.

These insects normally are out and about mostly singly during flowering seasons. But during fruit seasons, especially when ‘langsat’ ripens (and some ‘langsat’ fruits may fall to the ground breaking the skin and exposing the sweet juicy flesh) this is the time when these insects are out and about in numbers eating that sweet flesh. And don’t you dare disturb them.



Children being children, and living in the rural Malay village there was nothing more fun than carrying catapults around and shooting at anything from small birds to wasp nests. We used to do that and we never got stung whenever we shot at wasp nests. But others walking by unknowingly have been heard to have got stung after our escaped.

Technically this is how the insect is described:
Head, thorax and gaster with erected stiff hairs from each punctures. Head as wide as thorax, dark brown or brownish red; compound eyes kidney-liked with three ocelli; antennae dark brown and last segment pale brown; clypeus black or brownish red with black margin posteriorly, many punctures on the clypeus actually coarse and strong, posterior side of clypeus with blunt triangular lobes; mandibles dark brown to black. Pronotum, mesonotum and propodeum dark brown to black, propodeum usually smooth and impunctate, the median groove short and deep at base, barely continued to the apex of the propodeum. Legs dark brown or black, reddish brown towards the tarsi. Wings dark fuscous and pale brown along their apical margins; tegulae dark brown. Gaster usually dark brown to black; the second segment bright yellow or yellow orange.
This species is a subterranean wasp. Adults are medium to large sized, dark brown to black and yellowish orange marked on the gaster. This species is very similar to Vespa affinis, but easily distinguished from the latter by bright yellow or yellow orange at the second gastral segment.

The photo on the left shows the insect in an hopeless situation when its sting has been somehow detached from its tail.





And some sites of reference:

http://www.treknature.com/gallery/Asia/India/photo87929.htm

http://venomlist.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=17368

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6419395

http://www.vespa-bicolor.net/main/vespid/vespa-tropica.htm

3 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Just found one of these in my house. Searched the internet to find out what it was, its level of danger, and found your site. Very helpful. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Just found one of these in my house. Searched the internet to find out what it was, its level of danger, and found your site. Very helpful. Thanks!