I spotted this eye-catching creature sat on a munched-up rose-leaf in the garden. Dark black with white spots and bands. It looks like someone has gone a little mad with a bottle of Tippex.
I thought it was an unusual variety of fly munching on my roses, but the truth, which I found after some research, was much more grizzly and horrifying. This is one of the species of Ichneumon wasps, a parasitic wasp that injects its eggs into the larvae and pupae of beetles, butterflies and moths. Once hatched, they devour the insides of these poor creatures, eating them alive. The host eventually dies, allowing the larva to emerge and pupate into the wasp you see here.
In a letter to naturalist Asa Gray, Charles Darwin wrestled with the truth of nature’s cruelty:
“I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”
… a gruesome but fascinating insect… though I do hope I haven’t spoiled your dinner. 😉