The natural world constantly surprises with its weird and wonderful creatures and the wide variety of methods they use to survive and thrive. One of the weirdest, though, may be the beaded lacewing, whose larvae go through a distinct frat boy stage during which they paralyze and even kill their food… with the force of their farts.
Lacewings of the variety Lomamyia latipennis spend their youth as voracious larvae. An adult lacewing lays its eggs in a termite mound, and once they have time to hatch, the emerging larvae are immediately able to locate the termites that are their prey.
After locating a likely victim, the young creature points its rear towards the termite’s face and waves it. There is no noise, and the termite does not back away or appear repulsed as a “vapor-phase toxicant” â€” otherwise known as a fart â€” is emitted. However, within three minutes, the termite is stunned into immobility, and the larva can liquefy and munch on it with impunity.
The scientists who performed the observational studies that noted this behavior also recorded that, even if not eaten, the termite dies within about three hours, making these farts truly fatal. The volume of gas expelled appears to be able to knock out up to six enemies at once, with an average size of 2.5 milligrams. That makes each of the prey over three and a half times larger than the tiny larva, as they average only 0.7 milligrams.
Only termites appear to be affected by these poisonous vapors, as scientists tested the larvae’s outgassings against a variety of other small creatures that commonly inhabit termite mounds with no effect. Termites larger than 5 milligrams were stunned rather than dazed and did not feel the full fatal force of the fart.
While scientists don’t know yet why the lacewing larvae’s flatulence is so poisonous to the termites it feasts on yet unnoticed by other creatures in the vicinity, it’s certainly a case of survival of the grossest. Modern Notion rightly laments the fact that no further studies have been conducted on this particular insect, as of 2015, but the field of insect farting is alive and well, with wider surveys suggesting that many insects produce significant amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.Â Termites beware.Whizzco