Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Among North America's most spectacular insects, the giant ichneumon wasps of the genus Megarhysa are found throughout most of the continent. Some females exceed seven inches in length, including the long ovipositor, which can bore deep into solid wood to reach the wood-eating larvae which these wasps parasitize. The eggs are laid singly in the chamber of each victim, typically the larva of a horntail wasp (family Siricidae). The larval ichneumon slowly consumes its living host, saving its vital organs for last.
Unfortunately, giant ichneumons are rare in my area, and I've seen but a handful here. In Toronto I once saw five female Megarhysa wasps ovipositing into the same oak tree, forming a perfect vertical line. My assumption was that their wood-boring hosts preferred either to live on the warmest or coolest side of the trunk. It was overcast, close to noon, and I had no compass, so whether they were seeking or avoiding heat is still a mystery to me.

This painting depicts a very rare urban ichneumon species that parasitizes vertebrates and attains unbelievable proportions.

illustrations: Oviposition (2000) [entire and detail] acrylic 20" x 17"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

At last, intelligent use of a beer-belly! Don't you just love painting brick walls? It looks great, but damn, that 900th brick must have been hell.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Carel Brest van Kempen said...

It was hell, alright, but well worth it. Don't you think it's the best one by far?

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surreal wildlife art with a dash of 1950s giant bug horror movie, I love it! You are so creative!

5:38 PM  
Blogger Carel Brest van Kempen said...

Aw shucks...and you're so nice!

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So that is what the kitties are watching out the window... I never knew!

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear God, man! O'George is right. I would have been batty with all those bricks. On top of the sheer number of them, you seem to have handled each with care. Impressive.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Carel Brest van Kempen said...

douglasg: Next time you notice your cat gazing intently out the window, suck in your gut!
HH: There's nothing I'd rather do than spend an entire day meditating on a single texture.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe it. You are not telling me there are 7 inch wasps out there. Jeez, I oughta stay in more.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Carel Brest van Kempen said...

Actually, most of that seven inches is taken up by that long ovipositer, but they're still big and impressive wasps. Despite their frightening mien, though, they are completely inoffensive animals.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Mari said...

I feel very sad that, born, raised in, and living in Toronto, I never have see this..... I need to get out more, because nobody believes the urban wilds I have seen, which others walk on by.
What a tremendous painting, it's an amalgamation of so much I love, I laughed for ages, great, great work.

1:28 PM  

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