Doin’ It When it Don’t Fit

Wire-waisted Wasps

Forgive me the incorrect grammar and the suggestive title. The phrase just seems to, well, mate with the mood of the moment.

You see I am cooking in somebody elses kitchen, going on a week. The MacPro is in the shop with multiple system failures (video and memory) and so I’ve resorted to using the laptop on the kitchen table, and nothing fits. But blog goes on.

Earliest autumn is a great time to find insects gathered on the goldenrod. This everywhere plant is an easy-to-locate pickup spot where a single blister beetle, locust borer or “wire-waisted wasp” as I call these lovelies can congregate and be sure to find a mate waiting there, nonchalantly sipping on a glass of nectar.

To mate means to match. If a locust borer male takes a shine to a wire wasp female: sorry, Charlie. The mismatching business parts will stop the kinkiness right there. This, along with behavioral incompatibilities, are some of those “mechanical pre-zygotic isolating mechanisms” that keeps one species bound to only his or her own kind.

Even with a built-in Tab A in Slot B matching of parts, take a look at this couple. What else has to line up so there will be wee wire-waisteds next year?

She is hard-wired to lift her threadlike “petiole”–which in this particular species (somebody give me a scientific name?) is particularly long and wire-like. Note the “stem” of her abdomen is lifted maybe 70 degrees, with the terminal abdomen flexed at more than 90.

Should she remain with her abdomen and female receptive parts in normal resting posture, there will be no baby wasps come April. He, on the other hand, has to know exactly how to hold on from above with his front legs only (maybe also with his mandibles?) splaying his back legs wide to give clearance for her contortions.

All the parts and behaviors and hormonal signals and cellular chemical compatibilities have to be perfectly fit or they are perfectly useless.

My situation is not quite so dire. I can make do, temporarily, when not much is where it should be when the moment of need arises. I hate to tell you how long it took me to get this image into a useful form and place.

I am more than ready for the computer to be home again, and return to the status quo ante: a place where my rear end fits the chair, my hands fit the keyboard, and all the apps and links and bells and whistles of computing and writing fit in Goldilocks fashion, just so, and I can just do it!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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