Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What is this insect?

Palestinian shepherds have 100x better eyesight than me. They are able to spot everything more quickly than I can: settlers, army, gazelle, fox, insects, you name it. Sometimes they will even spot something, tell me where it is, and I still won't be able to see what they are seeing.

A week ago, we were walking down a steep, rock-strewn hill, when Redwan, a young Palestinian shepherd, stopped dead in his tracks. "Ta'al bsur'a, hada ish bijannen (come quickly, this is something absolutely incredible/crazy)", Redwan called to me. I galloped down the hill and knelt down beside Redwan. He was holding something open, something which I had certainly never seen before, and I had no idea what it was.

It appeared to be some kind of an insect's hole/home. The inside was coated with a faint, pearly-white substance. The lip of the hole was probably raised about 1/2 inch above the level of the surrounding soil. The raised edge was a wisp of dirt on the outside covered with the pearly-white substance on the inside. The hole was probably the width of a dime (a 10NIS piece for you Israeli readers and maybe the size of a bottle cap for you anti-establishment folks). The white substance coated the vertical portion of the hole, which extended several inches, before arching towards a more horizontal alignment. And then there was the trap-door hatch thingy.

The top of the hole is covered with a trap door, which is somehow hinged on one edge (it was the uphill edge). The outside of the trap door was covered with dirt, virtually camouflaging the hole, and making it REALLY impressive that Redwan saw is as he was just walking by. The dirt of the outside of the door was not loose dirt, but seemed to be stuck on there. It looked as if the door is made out of the same white substance that coated the tunnel.

Here's a video which will drive you crazy, in amazement, if you are anything like me:

I had lots of questions for Redwan, cause I was simply blown away, and he seemed as excited well, as he kept saying, "Haada ishi bijannen, walla bijannen (this is something, this is really something). Redwan informed me that the insect looks sort of like a scorpion but it's not poisonous (my apologies for not getting a better description than that...hindsight, 20-20). This insect also eats other insects, which I realized when Redwan started searching for a big ant to put near the mouth of this hole. The white substance which coats the tunnel and creates the door is emitted, or maybe spit out, by the insect.

So I turn to you! What is this insect? Redwan told me the Arabic name, but I looked it up and didn't find anything, and now I forget the Arabic name. So what is this thing? Let's unite our brainpower to figure this out and then tell National Geographic that they need to do a show on this thing.


Federica said...

It's so cool! I've seen one in Umm Zeituni too! Ahmed showed it to me! Amazing!

the green hero said...

Dude, I think this is what you saw:

So cool!

Rebecca said...

yeah, I was going to say it was a type of trapdoor spider. wolf spiders also sometimes have trapdoor nests, if I remember correctly...