THE BEE-EATING PHILANTHUS
Too Long; Didn't ReadTo meet among the Wasps, those eager lovers of flowers, a species that goes hunting more or less on its own account is certainly a notable event. That the larder of the grub should be provided with prey is natural enough; but that the provider, whose diet is honey, should herself make use of the captives is anything but easy to understand. We are quite astonished to see a nectar-drinker become a blood-drinker. But our astonishment ceases if we consider things more closely. The double method of feeding is more apparent than real: the crop which fills itself with sugary liquid does not gorge itself with game. The Odynerus, when digging into the body of her prey, does not touch the flesh, a fare absolutely scorned as contrary to her tastes; she satisfies herself with lapping up the defensive drop which the grub (The Larva of Chrysomela populi, the Poplar Leaf-beetle.—Translator's Note.) distils at the end of its intestine. This fluid no doubt represents to her some highly-flavoured beverage with which she seasons from time to time the staple diet fetched from the drinking-bar of the flowers, some appetizing condiment or perhaps—who knows?—some substitute for honey. Though the qualities of the delicacy escape me, I at least perceive that the Odynerus does not covet anything else. Once its jar is emptied, the larva is flung aside as worthless offal, a certain sign of a non-carnivorous appetite. Under these conditions, the persecutor of the Chrysomela ceases to surprise us by indulging in the crying abuse of a double diet.