Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Silk Moth Tragedy.

Anyone reading this blog will have noticed that there has been a paucity of posts here recently. This is because I have been busy...

...panicking about swine flu.

Having researched bird flu for a novel (which I started, but didn't finish) I knew rather too much about flu epidemics and became convinced that there was going to be a pandemic that was going to wipe most of us out. I thought it a logical result of world overpopulation - part of a Malthusian feedback mechanism, but I was wrong* - which I must say pleases me a lot.

Anyway, I have to report that following instructions from the Centre for Disease Control in Florida, I started my emergency store of bottled water and tinned haute cuisine items such as tinned sausages and beans, ravioli, and soup (and also panadol, tissues, and various other items in case of calamity) all the time thinking about the cache that the father and son discovered in McCarthy's THE ROAD. Needless to say the rest of my family thought I was overreacting.

But enough of that, and back to the more interesting dramatic and tragic events in the lives of my silkmoths...

On Friday I heard a rustling sound from one of the cocoons - clearly one of the moths was trying to get out. Since this went on for some time (about ten minutes) without the moth making progress, I stepped in and performed a cocoon Caeserian with a pair of scissors.

(Female moth to the left, her cocoon to the right)

The moth (a female full of eggs) duly arrived in the world, but was clearly the worse for wear. Her wings did not inflate, and her movements became weaker. I think her wings remained limp because she had already expelled some of her haemolyte (insect-'blood') as waste inside her cocoon, perhaps in her efforts to get out. Usually this haemolyte is pumped by an auxiliary heart at the base of the wings into the capillaries on the wings, and the surplus then expelled as waste.

A little later I realised that the moth had expired, and some of her pheromone was leaking from her because a moth nearby was frantically beating his wings and trying to mate with her. To put him out of his misery I removed her so he couldn't smell her any more. Once again my silk moths were providing more tragedy and pathos than any soap opera. Well, almost...

(* at least, when I wrote that it looked like I was wrong)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How tragic. I wonder if this is some bizarre generational effect due to you breeding from the same set of moths over more than one cycle? Very distressing and messy, I am sorry to read. I hope this was not, in fact, caused by swine 'flu. (I think it is going away now, isn't it? Hope so....)

Tue May 05, 09:04:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ah yes, Maxine, it could be...I hadn't thought of that. I only had 20 to begin with so quite a limited gene pool, I guess, if they were siblings.

And as for the swine flu - just as I thought it was going away - at least not on the news today - here it comes back again. First death of a US citizen from the the disease, and a warning not to be complacent. Ugh.

Tue May 05, 09:32:00 pm  
Blogger Jonathan Wonham said...

I travelled back from the US ten days ago. On the plane from Schipol to Stavanger there were a bunch of Norwegians just returning from Mexico. At that point in time I had no idea about the swine flu. By the time I found out about it, I had been in contact with my family and many colleagues. It seems to me airport authorities have been very slow to put technology in place for detecting passngers with high temperatures as is standard in China for example following the bird flu. Happily I'm feeling fine.

Tue May 05, 10:05:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh that is sad! I wonder the same thing as Maxine about the silk moths.

As for swine flu, complacency and denial seem to be a theme in the blogosphere this morning.

Wed May 06, 08:39:00 am  
Blogger Anne S said...

We had friends arriving back from the USA on monday who were spending the night at our place before heading back to their house in the country. They were thermally photographed before they could leave the terminal. Nevertheless, we were quite relieved to see they were not suffering any symptoms of flu.

Wed May 06, 11:41:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Well, Jonathan, I'm very glad to hear you're feeling fine - but that must have been a worrying time for you. Yes, I agree about the technology - although it has limitations surely it must be better than nothing. And very easy to set up too! I agree about the Chinese too. The way they have dealt with this has been impressive, but I do wonder if that sort of thing comes more easily to a totalitarian state. In the west I wonder if people would have been quite so docile.

Glad to see the Australians are making more of an effort, Anne! This is interesting, isn't it - the various nations response to an incipient pandemic? I wonder if there's a pattern.

And yes, Barbara, complacency and denial seem to be the order of the day - it seems to be humanity's reaction to many uncomfortable predictions. I wonder what our descendants will make of this - if they will be incredulous that we spectated on all that we see going on around us - the pandemic, the intensive farming, the overpopulation and the glaciers sliding into the sea - and do nothing.

Wed May 06, 02:24:00 pm  
Anonymous Gilles said...

The world population is 6,778,872,550 as of Thursday 7 May. Total deaths from A-N1H1 : 31 (out of 1893 people infected worldwide) according to the WHO website. Compare with 63,730 annual deaths worldwide from common influenza.


Don't panic!

Thu May 07, 07:06:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Gilles! I have calmed down a bit now. I think after spending sometime imagining myself being in the middle of a flu that is as virulent and as deadly as ebola, it was as if this nightmare were coming true.

Thu May 07, 07:54:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Though, according to this Nature article (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v459/n7243/full/459009a.html), it is best to be prepared. It ends: 'We know a tsunami is coming. No one can say whether it will be just a large wave, or a monstrous one, but it is time to start thinking about at least being ready to move to higher ground.'

Thu May 07, 09:09:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

Let's hope the next creature based flu virus isn't silk moth flu, or you might be in big trouble Clare!

Thu May 07, 03:52:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Heh, heh - yes, Jem, Pebrine for humans! We'd all go black and die with our legs in the air.

Thu May 07, 04:34:00 pm  

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