THE YELLOW-WINGED SPHEXby@jeanhenrifabre


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Under their powerful armour, which no dart can penetrate, the insects of the Beetle tribe offer but a single vulnerable spot to the sting-bearing enemy. This defect in the breastplate is known to the murderess, who drives in her poisoned dagger there and at one blow strikes the three motor centres, for she selects her victims from the Weevil and Buprestis families, whose nervous system is centralized to the requisite degree. But what will happen when the prey is an insect clad not in mail but in a soft skin, which the Wasp can stab here or there indifferently, in any part of the body that chances to be exposed? In that case are the blows still delivered scientifically? Like the assassin who strikes at the heart to cut short the dangerous resistance of his victim, does the assailant follow the tactics of the Cerceres and wound the motor ganglia by preference? If that be so, then what happens when these ganglia are some distance apart and so independent in their action that paralysis of one is not necessarily followed by paralysis of the others? These questions will be answered by the story of a Cricket-huntress, the Yellow-winged Sphex (Sphex flavipennis).
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Jean-Henri Fabre

I was an entomologist, and author known for the lively style of my popular books on the lives of insects.

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