We’ve been a bit doom and gloom on the blog this week. Earthquakes. Population bombs. I promise to lighten things up soon. But before I do that, let’s celebrate Wildlife Wednesday with a profile of a creature likely to survive any catastrophe nature throws at it: the cockroach.
Famed for their hardiness, cockroaches can survive for long periods without food or air. They can weather cold temperatures and have even been documented as surviving decapitation.
The bugs can withstand radiation better than humans, a trait explained by their cell cycle. Cells are vulnerable to radiation when dividing, and since a cockroach’s cells divide only when it molts, many cockroach populations would be unaffected by acute bursts of radiation.
While species like the German cockroach (Blattella germanica) are pests and generally unattractive to humans, not all cockroaches are ugly. Some species, like the above pictured bush cockroach (Ellipsidion australe) are quite beautiful.
Some species of cockroaches are parthenogenetic, which means they can reproduce without the need for males.
The bugs are one of the most common household pests, leaving offensive odors and feeding on human and pet food. They can also act as a potential vector for disease.
Baking soda kills cockroaches by causing their internal organs to burst due to gas collection. Ouch.
“The name Foxglove is from an old fairy-belief that foxes were taught
by the fairies to wear the bell-flowers on their feet to soften their
tread as they sneak into henhouses or slip away from fox hunters.
Fairies were believed to wear the flower-thimbles on their fingers
while working their magic, & to wear them as hats or petticoats,
inducing poet Hartley Coleridge (1796-1849) to write:
”Were we like the Fays That sweetly nestle in the foxglove bell.“
Foxglove mythology associates the flower with Juno (Hera) who learned
midwife lore from the Goddess Flora, including a supernatural method of
using foxgloves to induce parthenogenetic pregnancy. Flora placed a
foxglove blossom on her thumb, touched Juno on the tips of her breasts
& on her belly, so that she became impregnated with Mars who had no
While most of the larger species of plants, animals and insects all reproduce sexually, there are many exceptions. The New Mexico Whiptail (pictured) is a species of all-female lizard, sometimes nicknamed the ‘lesbian lizards’ who reproduce parthenogenetically, that is, without a second source of genetic material. The word parthenogenesis comes from the Ancient Greek word παρθένος (parthenos) meaning a maiden or girl, often used to denote unmarried girls who are virgins. As a proper noun, Παρθένος (Parthenos), the word was used to denote The Virgin Goddess, a title for Athena at Athens, her temple there still standing as one of the most significant ruins in the city. Genesis comes from the Ancient Greek word γιγνεσθαι (gignesthai), to be born, denoting kinship and family, but here offering a very literal description of the Whiptail’s asexual reproduction. Despite that, the Whiptails engage in a type of ‘mating’ behavior, thought to stimulate ovulation, as those lizards who do not ‘mate’ typically do not produce eggs. Many types of life forms reproduce this way or are occasionaly capable of parthenogenesis, including insects, crustaceans, sharks, birds, but so far not in mammals. Ahem.
Couple of shots of my ultra rare Platythomisus octomaculatus, 8 spotted crab spider juvenile. These spiders are supposed to be parthenogenetic having no male ever recorded, so fingers crossed thats true and i get her breeding eventually.
In [Iliad] 21.470-95, she [Hera] physically attacks Artemis and sends the Huntress Goddess scurrying in distress and humiliation. Although it is likely that this martial aspect was a reshaping of Hera from her original form as Earth Goddess (O'Brien 1993, 79), it does point to yet another possible affinity with the Parthenogenetic Goddesses Athena and Artemis.
Like these two Goddesses, Hera seems to have had a cultic connection with the Amazons. In front of the temple of Hera Anthea was a grave of women who, according to Pausanias (2.22.1), were killed in battle against the Argives under Perseus. These women had come from the Aegean islands to help the God Dionysus (possibly a reference to political that venerated him?) in war. Such women who served Dionysus in battle are specifically referenced as Libyan Amazons by Diodorus Siculus (3.68-71). That they were buried in front of a temple to Hera indicates their cultic affinity with her. I propose this may have been the case precisely because she, like Artemis and Athena, was anciently considered to have been a Parthenogenetic Goddess and, thus, of particular interest to such matriarchal warriors.
The more direct and striking evidence for Hera as a pure Parthenogenetic Goddess can be found in the miraculous birth stories of Ares, Typhon, and Hephaestus. According to Hesiod (Theogony 922), Hera conceived Ares (like Hebe and Eileithyia) by Zeus, but Ovid (Fasti 193-260) reports a legend that she conceived the War God parthenogenetically. According to the story, Hera, unhappy that Zeus had become the Father of Athena “without the use of a wife,” claimed that she would try “all the drugs in the wide world” (omnia temtabo latis medicamina terris) to find a way to conceive without the use of a husband. It was the “nymph” Flora/Chloris who provided her with the means of doing so. Flora/Chloris had received from the fields of Olenus a special flower brought to her by a mysterious male individual who told her that the blossom would make pregnant any female touched by it.
Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity by Marguerite Rigoglioso, p 77