The travel continues...

To tell the truth, during the travel through the Earth of Neocene epoch it was very pity to me to understand, that it nevertheless sooner or later will be terminated. And at the same time at the Neocaenic Earth there are places to not visit which would be very insulting. Therefore I have decided, that it is still possible to wander a little through areas of the mysterious, wild and fine world of the future, observing for the creatures inhabiting it. You see it is always interesting to find out: what is there, behind the turn of the way?
Let it will be separate excursions to different areas of the planet which will show inhabitants of the Earth millions years after the present time.


Tour to Neocene


23. Flying killers



Global ecological crisis of the border of Holocene and Neocene has had an effect practically on all ecosystems of the planet. Some of them have disappeared completely, others, on the contrary, have extended. Therefore, when the period of crisis was finished also the climate of the planet again began milder, some ecosystems had started to develop literally “from zero”. Especially unlucky coral reeves was - practically all reef-building corals had become extinct, having carried away to the non-existence rich population and complex structure of reeves.
In much best position there were tropical rainforests - some species formed this ecosystem earlier, were kept in small isolated “islets” - refugiums. When the conditions, acceptable to life, began to be restored, these relic inhabitants of forests of the past had mixed with new species and had formed rich and extended forests on all tropical zone of the Earth. And these woods are full of different species of animals - insects, spiders, vertebrates, molluscs and other ground animals have aspired to occupy all floors of tropical paradise found again. As the result of evolution they have turned to the most different forms, armed and developed new ways of the survival. Damp rainforests of the Amason region became the house for one of the most terrible inhabitants of tropics of a planet.
The continuous cover of rainforests of South America has spread to thousands kilometers. Trees stand to each other very close, being bound by branches and incorporating by lianas. In this green canopy the small-sized animal can run many kilometers, having not touched the ground. Above the green sea of crones separate giant trees about 50 - 60 meters height here and there rise. Their tops take up both beneficial heat of sun, and fury of the hurricanes breaking branches and tearing off part of foliage. In forked crown of one tree something huge, rounded, abundantly clearly not being the part of the tree, is visible. This is the vespiary - the real “Port Royal” constructed by most awful creatures of the new Amazon selva. If to risk and to come nearer to this construction, it is possible to see its builders and owners – giant wasps similar to Holocene hornet (Vespa crabro) by size. But these creatures had changed standard yellow-and-black colouring of wasps to more ominous one, resembling the coloring of the “black widow” spider. The body of these wasps is black, and the tip of abdomen and top of thorax are covered with red color hairs. Motionlessly sitting wasp is looking like the decaying coal piece. But these insects seldom sit motionlessly - all their short life passes as tireless activity. In the colony there is no idleness which, for example, lions of Holocene epoch presumed to themselves. The colony demands constant care: to feed larvae and neighbours, to build and repair the nidus, to protect it against enemies - employment always will to find. The huge nidus is similar to the barrel, “grew” half in the tree. It is built of clay and the dirt strengthened by vegetative fibers twisted in it. The entrance is opened below, and on edge of the bottom side of the nidus the edge of fresh clay from which grass sticks up is already visible - the construction of new floor is proceeding. As against constructions of people a long time ago disappeared from the Earth, the wasp nidus is built on not upwards, but downwards. Set of wasps with wide mandibles and powerful body cluster on the bottom edge of the nidus - they drag lumps of clay and blades of grass to the next site of works. When they will build the next vault, the bottom surface of the previous floor will become the basis for the new circle of comb.
This huge nidus belongs to the colony which is in the flowering of forces – the result of it includes 3 years of successful existence and about 5 thousand living members of the colony. But this nidus had begun to exist as the tiny construction made by the only wasp at the place, where the storm had broke the large branch of the giant tree.
Three years ago above the rainforest the usual life of numerous winged creatures had boiled up: flies had hovered, prompt bright butterflies sometimes had flitted or the massive beetle had flow anywhere hollowly buzzing. Birds had gathered the tribute among flights of insects, and sometimes at the rush on the silvery thread tiny spider flew, had left the territory of mother. But at one of days the new note - hollow and low had appeared in this symphony of life. Scaring away innumerable insects and forcing birds to bypass this place far, above trees the flight of corsair hornets - large, black, with red spots on thorax and abdomen had risen. They were so numerous, that from afar it was possible to take the flight of these insects for a smoke curling above the forest. Wasps had one of the major rituals in life - courtship flight. Young females ready to pairing from the different niduses, not crowned queens of future colonies, had dispatched odorous invitations to numerous drones which had rushed behind one or another female somewhere. Pairs had found each other in air by known only for them attributes and criteria, and in air there had been the pairing. After pairing the young female had promptly left a place of courtship flight and had begun to search for the place for the foundation of the future colony. And the place in the crone of high tree, where some days before it large branch had grew has rather attracted for one of such females. By wind the branch had been broken out together with the fair piece of wood from the trunk therefore in wood the big niche was formed. And in the top part of this niche the young female of the corsair hornet had begun to drag clay, strengthening it by fibers of bark. Departing for the building material to the steep coast of the river, the female had carefully marked the place of the future nidus with odorous secretions. For neighbours it had meant: “it is my territory, and nobody will lodge here without fight with me!”
From each flight the female had brought some clay or some dry blades of grass with which had consolidated the nidus. Soon her construction had got the appearance of slightly flatten hemisphere. And then the female had begun to made combs of the chewed wood fibers. Time of construction had been replaced by the time of hunting when larvae had excluded from eggs laid in combs. Young queen wasp had brought any insect or a piece of meat of dead animal from hunting, had chewed it and had fed larvae. And when the first larvae had grown up, queen had attached to the nidus one more circular line of comb and had again laid eggs. Meanwhile the first generation of larvae had grew up, and when new larvae had excluded from eggs, their first food were nutritious secretions of salivary glands of their senior relatives. At these species the role of nurses is carried out with larvae of advanced age. They are capable to eat coarse “adult” food and to transform it to easily digesting “baby feed”. So they free the queen of excessive efforts of nidus-keeping. And once, when the first forager wasps had emerged, the queen had made the last flight and had turned to the voluntary recluse.
Forager wasps had got enough forage to support still increasing population of the nidus. Also they had dragged clay and plants, strengthening and increasing walls. Soon constructed by queen basis of the nidus had became its “apartments”. Forager wasps had picked up eggs laid by queen and had placed them in cells of comb, had fed the queen and had cleaned it. And the queen has gradually turned to the real factory of egg manufacture, laying them as regular as if the live machine.
Some of the larvae, had got less of forage, had turned to wasps of other shape: they had no portliness and calmness of foragers - they were hunter wasps. They were a little bit more finely, more maliciously, and their sting is advanced much more strongly. Nervous and excitable, they can attack any animals had appeared in their field of view. Also they prefer to get the forage actively, killing the chosen prey, rather than to search for available food – the carrion. Balance between hunters and foragers is supported by conditions of environment: if it is plenty of forage, all larvae are full and grow to large foragers. At lack of forage the significant part of larvae turns to hunters, and the colony of wasps starts to offer the real danger to all alive within reach. And hunters can kill even rather large vertebrate animals used for feeding of the colony.
Due to work coordination of all members of the colony the nidus has lived up to the age of three years. Queen is still full of life - it regularly lays eggs. Large mature larvae get the forage brought by foragers and hunters, and distribute it among the colony. In the colony constantly there are many young insects ready to work. And they prepare for flight for food. For some of them it will be the first flight from the nidus, and for others it is the daily routine.
The small group of wasps - about two tens of insects - gathers near the entrance to the vespiary. They hang at the bottom of the nidus, keeping by two pairs of legs, and loudly buzz. To their sounds about fifty wasps gather, and soon the group starts the flight. The food is necessary for their colony, and the group searches for it, analyzing the smells soaring in air. Among tens of smells they find one, much more pleasant, rather than aroma of orchids or trees - the smell of rather "fresh" dead large fish. And all group directs to the source of this smell.
At the sandy shallow the dead fish lays. Probably, the turtle has put to it the strongest bite, hoping to have dinner, but the fish nevertheless has slipped away from it. And now it wallows on sand, having started slightly to be decomposed. On it flies already sit, rushed in all directions when the flight of black-and-red wasps falls on the fish. Strong jaws of forager wasps tear flesh of fish which disappears in their voluminous stomachs and craws. During the flight home only a little of the food will be digested, but the most part will be used for rising generation.
" Aroma" of the decomposed fish attracts not only wasps: along the coast clumsy the otterodent, the fish-eating water rodent, minces by jog-trot. But when it had came nearer to wasps cutting catch, some of hunter wasps rise in air. Hollow buzzing, they hover above the head of the otterodent. The animal discontentedly snorts, and by prompt jump disappears in water. It emerges rather far from flight of wasps, looks back, and then dives again.
When wasps finish with all catch, only accurately picked skeleton remains from it. Only the part shipped in water, will be got to other predators. Hardly hooting, wasps rise in air. Their craws and stomachs are filled to safety, and many wasps press to themselves by legs pieces of meat. All catch will be used for feeding of larvae and queen of the colony. In flight wasps emit chemical signals to each other with the help of repugnatorial glands, supporting unity of the group. Wasps from the same colony have the similar smell - so they can distinguish neighbours from strangers.
The group of wasps easily will protect itself against predators, which are great variable in this forest. On the branch the speckled bird with striped wings and tail sits – it is the shoulder-strap cuckoo. It is the male – he is easily to identify because of red spots at shoulders. The shoulder-strap cuckoo is the successful insect hunter. But even it does not risk to come nearer to wasp swarm. It searches for the forage among branches of trees. Jumping in thickness of lianas, the bird finds the strange insect. It looks similarly to the wasp – it is black with red spots. When the bird disturbs an insect, it stands up on all legs and quickly starts to flap wings. It looks as if the threat has worked: the cuckoo male jumps aside and flits to the near liana. However this insect never can add the threat with the low buzzing – it is not the wasp, but the moth, the black waspmoth. However, even knowing it, the shoulder-strap cuckoo does not begin to eat it: the waspmoth is poisonous insect.
Other insects of Amazon rainforests have developed the special ways of protection against numerous enemies. The most simple way is becoming invisible. Looking at one of tree branches, it is impossible to find on it an animal while it will start to move. And one leaf rather purposefully rises on legs and starts to walk along the branch, moving by antennas. It is the special species of locusts - the stinky leafwing locust. Protecting against enemies it first of all relies upon the form of the body skillfully imitating leaves. However the shoulder-strap cuckoo, had sat on the branch, has keen sight. And the leafwing locust obviously is nervous, when the cuckoo too long sits near it. The insect passes to the second way of defense: for one second it opens and folds wings with light paper crash. Having waited for some seconds, the leafwing locust repeats movement. On back wings of the leafwing locust there are two oculate spots. When wings are opened, it creates full impression of that in foliage someone very big is hidden. And the cautious cuckoo instantly leaves the branch chosen by the leafwing locust.
The illusion with the help of colouring is the way, suitable for defense against the vertebrates searching for catch with the help of sight. But in forest there are also corsair hornets earning their living by hunting. The most refined and subtle coloring does not rescue against them, they will be not frightened with demonstration of false eyes. The best variant is when the wasp flies by past and does not notice the presence of the leafwing locust, or is simply occupied with search or carrying of more significant catch. But the meeting with the hunting wasp flying light does not promise anything good. And consequently, when the hunting wasp had sat on the branch where the leafwing locust is peacefully fed, it nothing remains to the herbivore, except for starting “the secret weapon”. The wasp, as if the hunting dog, sniffs at branches, trying to find for hidden insects. It is not known, whether it understands, that somewhere near it the large locust hides. But the locust perfectly sees the wasp, and prepares for defense. When the corsair hornet had stumbled on the leafwing locust until the last second keeping immovability, it changes: having opened wings and having pulled up an abdomen, the leafwing locust emits pungent smelling substance. The wasp appears literally shocked by this sickening smell, therefore it tries to leave this branch as fast as possible. Loudly buzzing, the predator shoots upwards in air. It is visible, that it has not absolutely recovered yet after the chemical attack: flight of the wasp is rather irregular. And the leafwing locust quietly continues to gnaw the leaflet.
Some leafwing locusts never meet beside: this insect is territorial. Males of the leafwing locust occupy the area on large tree branch, necessary with moss overgrowths. In moss females of this species lay eggs, and the male protects this place from “landless” individuals. When one such “tramp” comes nearer to the territory of the male, the owner runs out towards to the newcomer. Both insects converge head to head, having spread wide antennas in sides and touching them each other. At whose antennas are longer, that one usually wins. But if contenders do not want to concede, the second part of the duel follows: having slightly opened wings, both insects start to chirr threateningly. Thus shins of their legs rub against the nerve on the wing, emitting abrupt signals. But the newcomer appears persevering: it does not recede. And then opponents converge, having flung open bright wings. Wings shine and tremble under beams of the sunlight, both insects turn on the branch, as if in strange round of waltz. Nobody wants to recede. There is only one means to drive off an impudent stranger: the male - owner of territory attacks it and puts the bite by powerful mandibles in its leg. The opponent instantly folds wings and runs away under accompaniment of menacing chirring of the lawful owner of the branch.
Different species can apply completely various receptions for protection. If the stinky leafwing locust is rather defenceless and basically relies upon the skilful masking, its distant relative, the garhopper, protects itself completely differently. Brightly colored red and black, it is not hidden from all from possible predators – it has anything to meet them. Therefore, when near it the corsair hornet appears, the insect keeps external calmness. The wasp flies around the garhopper, trying to choose the position most convenient for attack. But the insect only slightly turns the head, watching for the large black wasp. And when the winged predator attacks, the garhopper sharply turns to it, raises head up and sprinkles from the mouth jet of liquid with pungent smell of vinegar. On air the liquid slightly stiffens, and at the wasp not any more the liquid hits, but the sticky mucous mass, sticking together its wings. The wasp falls on leaf, being pasted to it. Wasp desperately tries to free: it convulsively cleans legs and wings, trying to clean from the abdomen viscous locks of acetic glue. And at this moment the garhopper appears. The corsair hornet for it is any more not danger, but almost ready dinner. But it is impossible to get this dinner so simply: it is still alive and actively demonstrates the long strong sting, lifting up the abdomen. One sting - and the garhopper already never should need for food. Therefore it cautiously comes nearer and fitting to make final throw. There is only one way to neutralize the wasp – to immobilize its sting. By strong jump the garhopper falls on the wasp from above, presses it to leaf, pasting it even more strongly, and by one bite of strong mandibles punches its shell between segments of the abdomen. Jaws of the garhopper achieve an abdominal nerve chain of the wasp and cut it through, as if scissors. After that one more bite the garhopper cracks the head of the wasp and begins the feast.
To force the predator to keep the distance is an excellent way to survive without superfluous efforts for itself. And not only garhoppers have well learned it. On one branch as if the alive fur muff is dressed: caterpillars of the sleepy moth are fed. They are richly covered with the bristly fire-red hairs making their only protection against predators. And for strengthening of own safety and effective protection they keep by big congestions, completely eating all foliage on the branch. On the next branch they also move by the big group. Caterpillars are not afraid of numerous predators, including wasps. Therefore they almost do not stop to eat leaves when two forager wasps start to hover above them. And when one wasp flies too low above caterpillars, some larvae tear themselves away from chewing and take the pose of threat. As if tiny cobras, they bend the forward part of the body. And when the wasp tries to attack them, some thin hairs thrown by caterpillars fly at it. They are stuck in the body of the wasp, and one of them sticks between segments of the abdomen. After some seconds the wasp sits on the branch to not fly up any more. It randomly creeps along the bark and in some seconds falls downwards dead. The second wasp has got a portion of poisonous "arrows" too, but they had only got stuck in its hairs. Having sat down on leaves at safe distance from caterpillars, the wasp accurately clears the body from the unpleasant surprise, and then departs to search for other catch. But caterpillars nevertheless live not so freely, despite of their protective adaptations. There is in the forest the creature capable to eat unpunishedly hairy caterpillars.
If for the wasp bright colouring of caterpillars of the sleepy moth is the menacing warning, for the shoulder-strap cuckoo this is the invitation to dinner. The bird knows how to disarm caterpillars. Having found the colony of caterpillars, the cuckoo female is flying around it some times at the close distance, frequently flapping by wings. These it forces caterpillars “to disarm” and simultaneously drives off from itself the cloud of their "arrows". And for the updating of “arrow stock” caterpillars need some time which at them will not be during the attack of the cuckoo. When all caterpillars will be “disarmed”, the cuckoo quietly sits on the branch and pecks them one by one. In the stomach of the cuckoo hairs will quickly peel and together with rags of the exfoliating stomach epithelium will be belched out.
Having sated, the bird departs to search for other catch - nonpoisonous soft larvae for nestlings. Differing from well-known stereotype, these species of cuckoos independently hatches young growth. The nest of the cuckoo looks like an accurate basket twisted in lianas, and in it two semi-fledged nestlings sits. Returning with full craw, at the approach to the nest the female sees near nestlings the neighbour decorated with bright red spots at shoulders. It is not a stranger, but the male, at whose territory the female lives during this season. Besides it is the father of her nestlings. He regularly flies all females nesting at his territory, and sometimes feeds nestlings. Thus he approves the right on territory and females. And now his help was came very opportunely – to search for food in the forest is all more difficultly because of the bred corsair hornets.
These insects had caught all small catch and now in their nidus at top of the tree famine had begun. The generation in which it is much more spiteful aggressive hunters, than peaceful foragers has already grown. And the colony of wasps prepares for the next hunting - it will be the big hunting, horror for all small animals.
Near an entrance to the nidus the swarm of young hunting wasps to which, obeying chemical signals curls, to which forager wasps join. At last excitation of insects reaches “the critical point” and the swarm rushes to the forest. Woe to the one which can not escape and hide from these winged murderers! Even the most protected animals can fall victims of these wasps. The garhopper, having spent all stock of the defensive liquid, on the spot is exposed to an attack. Instant attack transforms the leafwing locust to pieces of wings and legs. Everywhere in the forest traces of hunting of monstrous insects are visible. In the nest of the shoulder-strap cuckoo three completely picked skeletons lay: mother until the last second had protected the hatch against hungry insects.
One of hunting wasps was beat off from group and now searches for food alone, creeping along the tree trunk. Though it sees few in the texture of bark cracks, sense of smell prompts it, that somewhere near the sleepy moth is sitting on the bark. Sharp sense of smell correctly put the wasp on the track of moth. And here unexpected occurs: instead of departing, the butterfly rises on legs and sticks out the pinkish bladder on the border of thorax and abdomen. In air the strong spicy aroma is emitted, quickly calming the wasp. And at this moment the sleepy moth disappears from chasing of the wasp under the piece of bark came off the trunk. Obeying the hunting instinct, the wasp follows it. But the moth is much smaller than the wasp, and it succeeds to be rescued, having hided more deeply, than the wasp can do. Having made some attempts to get the moth, the wasp recedes. However, it is impossible to tell, that the wasp had nothing to found: in hairs covering its body, the flat rounded tick had found the shelter.
Some months later life in the forest has gradually recovered from terror which was brought with the colony of corsair hornets. Again in air fly flies, caterpillars and leafwing locusts gnaw leaves of trees, and garhoppers search for livelihood in thickets of epiphytes. Cries of shoulder-strap cuckoos are heard at the distance: the male invites the new female to his territory. The pendulum was rocked to other side: now the vespiary is in pitiable condition. Near the entrance, surrounded with the unfinished circle of the nidus, only one wasp is sitting – it is the guard, and on its body small ticks are creeping. In the nidus there are more than half combs standing empty, and in several cells underdeveloped hungry larvae are sitting. From “nurses” only two tens larvae has remained, on which heads ticks sit pending the next feeding. When "nurse" is going to feed one of small larvae, about a half-dozen ticks surround its mouth and are sated with intended for larvae “baby feed”. Wasp queen is exhausted: its abdomen had become shrinking and flattened, as if the burst bubble. Eggs laying as the little heap at the bottom of the queen’s “apartments” are necessary for nobody: forager wasps are hardly capable to support themselves. The colony of corsair hornets had fallen a victim to its own power: being numerous and strong, it has exhausted food resources of the forest and now could not resist parasites. When wasps are going to the next flight, on their bodies ticks sit. They will be unhooked somewhere in the forest, and will wait for new wasps from safe niduses to continue the life cycle.
Life of an ecosystem is a set of life cycles of various creatures. Developing together and being imposed against each other, they create the special, uniform rhythm of life of the nature.


Corsair hornet (Toxivespula flammeocarbunculus)
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Vespidae

This is one of largest and the most aggressive species of social wasps. Length of the body of oviparous queen is up to 10 cm, other castes – about 5 cm. Coloring is black, on the thorax and on the abdomen end there are bright red shining hairs, wings are transparent. Insect lives by colonies, builds vespiary of dirt and vegetative fibers at tops of trees. The vespiary is almost cylindrical, an entrance is at the bottom side. In process of colony increasing to the vespiary the next circle from below is attached, and the former basis of vespiary becomes the support for a new circle comb. A line of entrances thus forms a through corridor. The oldest chamber of vespiary becomes dwelling of queen which is exclusively occupied with egg laying. The size of vespiary is about 2 - 3 meters in height at thickness up to 1 meter. In vespiary 500 and more adult individuals can live.
The caste system at these species is original: there is the queen-foundress, foragers and hunters. The role of nurses in colony is carried out with larvae of advanced age. They receive and eat all catch brought by adult individuals. Salivary glands at these larvae are very strongly advanced and account for about 1/3 of the body volume. In them the secret rich in proteins serving as food for younger larvae is producing. Approximately on last third of larval age the larva fades and turns to the nurse. Nurses look after younger larvae, clean and feed them. For day prior to the beginning of the metamorphosis the nurse larva finds a free cell and occupies it, closing up an entrance with wax secretions of glands on the end of abdomen.
Appearance and belonging to the caste at an imago of the present species depends on feeding during the larval stages: at plentiful feeding larger larvae grow turning later to ordinary foragers, at lack of forage larvae turn to smaller and aggressive hunters. Hunters have poisonous sting, at them there is small craw, but they are capable to hunt and attack animals actively. Foragers are strong and capable to transfer plenty of food, founded in forest, but can not hunt.
At lack of food in the colony there are many hunters and behavior of wasps changes: they unite to groups and fly off to the forest for search of alive catch. Hunters kill any catch, not capable to hide from them, and foragers cut it and carry away in paws and craws to the vespiary. With the help of smell gland on the end of abdomen individuals of one vespiary support contact among themselves, when the group of insects is making “raid” in forest.
Duration of larval stage is up to 2 weeks, life of hunters and foragers - 1 month, queen - till 6 years. With death of queen reproduction is broken and all colony perishes. Sometimes young queen, fertilized during breeding flight, comes back to the native colony, kills old queen and continues life in the colony as new queen.

Stinky leafwing locust (Phyllopteroides foetidissimus)
Order: Orthoptera
Family: Oedipodidae

Insect of family Oedipodidae, living in crones of trees. Length of the body is about 3 cm, including wings - up to 5 cm. Antennas are short - no more than half of body length. Back wings develop fan-like and are used for flight. On back wings at the basis there is large oculate spot - black with the white dab in the middle, orange along the edge. The forward pair of wings is colored like leaves with the figure simulating leaf nerves and decay. Back legs are not hopping ones, the insect can creep fast (up to 10 cm per one second) and also to fly at big distances. The insect is herbivorous, eats leaves of trees. On the tip of abdomen there is a repugnatorial gland emitting in case of danger the unpleasant smell. But usually the leafwing locust prefers passive protection, disappearing among foliage of fodder plants. At an attack of vertebrate animals the insect uses other tactics of self-protection: sharply opening and closing wings, it shows oculate spots, simulating eyes of large animal. Usually the bird or the lizard, having noticed such spots, tries to disappear, assuming them to be eyes of the predator.
In breeding season males choose the branches richest and attractive to females, and start to utter the advertising sounds reminding clock ticking. The sound is made, as at all locusts, by rubbing hips against edge of wing. After pairing the female lays some tens eggs in moss. The male protects place of clutch, uttering at occurrence of strangers the sound of aggression - abrupt warbles.

Garhopper (Acetosalticus paradoxus)
Order: Orthoptera
Family: Tettigoniidae

Picture by Tony Johnes

Insect of grasshoppers family (Tettigoniidae) about 6 cm long. The body shape reminds the majority of family representatives. Antennas are long: equal to length of the body, head is rounded, between the antenna bases there is the cross "crest" using at breeding battles of males. It differs by large thorax in which main means of protection is placed - glands producing burning liquid. On the top side of thorax there is a pattern of three longitudinal lines of rounded knobs. In case of danger the insect shoots to the enemy from the mouth jet of the sticky secretions containing an acetic acid. In connection with such security at an insect the bright warning coloring was developed. Body is bright red, knobs on thorax are white, wings are striped, black-and-white. On hips of back pair of legs there are longitudinal black strips.
The predator, eats small insects. To possible catch it shoots a jet of “fighting liquid”, and then quietly devours immoveable prey.
The female is a little bit larger than the male, differs by long ovipositor on the end of an abdomen. It lays eggs in rotten wood.

Black waspmoth (Hymenursula vespiptera)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Arctiidae

Large moth (length up to 6 cm) of family of bears (Arctiidae), imitating the corsair hornet. The body is covered with rich black hairs, on the top side of thorax there is cross red-colored stripe, a tip of abdomen is orange-red. On wings scales, being the characteristic attribute of order Lepidoptera, are almost not present. Only edges, bases and main nerves of wings are “traced” by several lines of black scales. Being attacked by predators the moth highly rises on the extended legs, opens wings and shows the colored abdomen tip. As the butterfly also is poisonous, the present case of imitation can be ranked as Muller’s mimicry. Hemolymph of this insect contains the poisonous substances which have been saved up still during the caterpillar stage. Caterpillars of this species grow to length 8 cm, differ by wool of rich short hairs forming across the body “tiger” pattern of regularly alternating coffee-brown and orange strips. The caterpillar is fed on leaves of trees of families Euphorbiaceae or Asclepiaceae, actively accumulating alkaloids in fat tissues. The stage of caterpillar lasts about 6 weeks, the adult moth lives about 2 months. The insect lays egg masses of 30 - 40 ones on the bottom side of leaves of fodder plant.

Sleepy moth (Morpheopterus hypnoticus)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Noctuidae

Small moth: length of the body is about 3 cm, wingspan - 5 cm. The body is covered with rich hairs, wings are “fleecy”. Coloring of the body is cryptic: gray-brown with the soft greenish tracery reminding young growth of moss on the tree bark. Day time this insect spends on tree trunks, flying at night. For protection against predators from among insects it has developed an interesting method of protection: the moth can calm predatory insects by secretions of pheromons. Thus the moth gets an opportunity to fly out and hide. The repugnatorial gland turns out on back side of the body, on the border of thorax and an abdomen, as a pinkish bladder.
The male is a little bit larger and more graceful than the female, differs from it by longer feather-like antennas.
Caterpillars of this species are covered with yellow-orange hairs and keep on branches of fodder plants by groups of 20 - 30 individuals. They apply active protection against enemies, shooting to the opponent by poisonous hairs. On pectoral segments of the caterpillar glands are located, secreting poisonous substance quickly hardening in air. Gradually producing it, the caterpillar forms on the thorax "brush" of long spikes. In case of danger the caterpillar compresses pouches of glands, pressure in it sharply increases and throws out the spike at the enemy. Piercing covers of enemy’s body, the spike is dissolved and turns to poison. Poison is dangerous to insects and small vertebrates, at the large animals it causes the strong irritation and oedemas on skin.

Wasp tick (Vesporroa vesporaptor)
Order: Mesostigmata
Family: Varroidae

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

The descendant of the bee tick varroa (Varroa jacobsoni), settled due to the people practically at the all world. Length of the body is about 2 millimeters, width - up to 4 mm. Shell is oval-shaped, flat from above, red - brown color. The tick parasitizes in vespiaries, eats eggs and larvae of younger age. Sitting on heads of larvae, the tick at their meal steals the food produced by larvae of advanced age. In the vespiary the pairing of ticks and the full cycle of development proceeds. Young females ready to breeding sit on the body of adult wasps flying out for catch, and leave them in the forest, waiting for new one which are determining by smell.

Shoulder-strap cuckoo (Sylvococculus striatus)
Order: Cuculiformes
Family: Cuculidae

Wood bird of cuckoo family (Cuculidae). Body length is up to 20 cm, the tail - up to 25 cm. Wings with rounded ends are adapted to fast maneuverable flight among branches of forest canopy. Beak is almost straight (slightly bent down), strong, moderately long. The bird eats insects. This species is one of few kinds of birds, capable to eat hairy caterpillars. During hunting the bird tries to kill the larva on the spot, then accurately swallows it. The epithelium of the forward stomach department of the bird frequently exfoliates - it takes up pricks of poisonous hairs of caterpillars. From time to time the epithelium of this department comes off together with the thrust hairs, is got rolled to dense ball, and the bird spits it out.
The feathering is golden - brown with cross black ripple, on wings and tail ripple passes to wide cross strips. The male and the female well differ with the feathering color: feathers on shoulders of the male are long, red with metal shine. At females feathers at shoulders have the same colouring, as at other feathering. During courtship ritual the male lifts red feathers and fluffs them up, "bowing" before the female. A voice of this bird sounds like single drawl sound "cooouu", courtship cry of the male is frequently repeated "flat" rolling warble.
This is polygamous species - on the territory of one male some females can live, and the male pairs with them. Females build simple open nests and independently look after nestlings (3 - 5 ones in the hatch). However they lay one - two eggs in nests of neighbours. The male helps to look after the hatch to all females living at his territory.


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