Tremex behaviour & our behavior

Tony Irwin tony.irwin at BTINTERNET.COM
Fri Sep 6 09:30:41 CDT 2002

Ken -
I understand there are documented cases (years ago) of hair sprays or
shampoos involving lemongrass essence which proved irresistable to
wasps/yellowjackets (Vespula sp.). The effect must have been spectacular in
the right (wrong?) situation! Presumably sales slumped and the formula was

Dr A.G.Irwin, Natural History Department,
Castle Museum Study Centre,
Shirehall, Market Avenue, Norwich NR1 3JQ, England.
Tel:+44 1603 493642. E-mail: tony.irwin at

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ken Kinman" <kinman at HOTMAIL.COM>
Sent: Thursday, September 05, 2002 6:38 AM
Subject: Re: Tremex behaviour & our behavior

> Barry,
>      That's a very interesting case of host-switching, which no doubt
> occurred many millions of years ago (having given rise to two new genera
> mites).
>      However, the case of siricid wasps trying to lay eggs within horses
> fire-fighters sounds like it may be a dead-end in evolutionary terms.  The
> poor confused mother wasp has probably lost those eggs to chemical
> (as animal immune systems would probably attack the eggs).  But there are
> always more evolutionary losers than winners in the long run.
>       Maybe we'll find out these horses had wood shavings in their bedding
> (as Bill Shear suggested as a possilibity) or rubbed up against a dead or
> dying tree (as I suggested), or against some burnt wood (as Susanne's post
> might possibly suggest).
>       But let me suggest yet another possibility---as I brainstorm a
> further.  With the perfume industry mixing hundreds or thousands of
> different chemicals into their "seductive" formulas, and increasingly
> various animal musks and pheromones, would it not be likely that humans
> wearing such chemical concoctions (or the dogs, cats or horses which they
> pet and groom) would be at increasing risk of becoming chemically
> (positively or negatively) to various insects?
>       I've always wondered if people who wear strong perfumes and
> aftershaves might not be at greater risk of being stung by bees, bitten by
> mosquitoes or ticks, or just bugged by insects in general.  For all we
> the dog killed by all those bees might have been petted by an owner with
> lots of aftershave or perfume on his/her hands.  With hundreds of
> in such mixtures, one could have mimicked the distress chemical of bees.
> Who knows, as it only takes tiny amounts (parts per million or even parts
> per billion) to trigger reactions in the insects detecting them?
>       It takes such a tiny amount of such chemicals to elicit such
> responses, and we are putting thousands of them willy-nilly (in various
> combinations) into consumer products.  Something to think about.
> doesn't have to be concentrated and industrial strength to impact other
> organisms or even ourselves.  Some store owners even spraying chemicals to
> get us to buy more at their stores.  Seems like we are increasing playing
> escalating game of chemical roulette which has gotten completely out of
> control.  It's scary and getting scarier all the time.
>             ------- Ken Kinman
> ****************************************
> >From: "Barry M. OConnor" <bmoc at UMICH.EDU>
> >Reply-To: "Barry M. OConnor" <bmoc at UMICH.EDU>
> >Subject: Re: Tremex behaviour
> >Date: Wed, 4 Sep 2002 18:33:48 -0400
> >
> >At 7:06 PM +0000 9/4/02, Ken Kinman wrote:
> > >>      ... Anyway, I have not yet been able to find any literature on
> > >> horntail wasps (Siricidae) trying to "oviposit" their eggs into a
> >(or
> > >> any other animal, for that matter).  I find this interesting, trying
> > >> figure out why  such drastic "host-switching" (animals instead of
> >trees)
> > >> would occur...
> >
> >There is an odd group of mites in the family Histiostomatidae (genera
> >Loxanoetus & Otanoetus) that live in the ear canals of horses, donkeys,
> >elephants & African buffalo.  These mites are filter feeders.  They
> >to be related to a clade whose species otherwise inhabit phytotelmata.
> >species whose dispersal mode is known utilize flies for phoretic
> >At some point in history a fly may have made a mistake and entered a
> >mammal ear instead of some other confined, dark, wet space.  In this
> >a hypothesis of "host switching" from plants to animals is supported. -
> >Barry
> >
> >-------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >So many mites, so little time!
> >-------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >Barry M. OConnor
> >Professor & Curator             phone: (734) 763-4354
> >Museum of Zoology               FAX: (734) 763-4080
> >University of Michigan          e-mail: bmoc at
> >Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079  USA
> _________________________________________________________________
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