A bit of a warning; this series is not for the squeamish. If you’re one to run from the room at the first site of an insect or spider, perhaps this post isn’t for you. But, I’m willing to bet that even the insectophobic will find aspects of David Attenborough’s BBC nature documentary Life in the Undergrowth fascinating. The focus of the two-disc set is invertebrates. Due to technological advances in camera and lens technology, filmmakers captured these creepy crawlies with incredible detail. And, their lives are just as fascinating as any day-time drama.
For example, did you know that there’s a type of butterfly, the Alcon blue butterfly, who tricks ants into taking care of its larvae by emitting a chemical smell, or pheromone, which the ants recognize as their own. The ants will feed and look after the larvae until it hatches, at which point the ants recognize the butterfly as a trespasser. But, it’s too late. The butterfly leaves the nest unscathed. Free to perpetuate its con-artist reputation.
However, the Alcon butterfly needs to watch its back. Unlike the ant population, a parasitic wasp (Ichneumon eumerus) can somehow sense that a non-ant has infiltrated the group. The wasp can also mimic the ants’ chemical smell, and enters the nest unnoticed. It lays its egg inside the Alcon blue butterfly larvae. And, when it is time to hatch, a wasp flies out of the ant nest, instead of an Alcon blue butterfly.
This is just one fascinating story amongst many. There’s the bat-catching, foot long centipede that lives in Venezuela; amazing ‘bungee jumping’ spiders; swimming mangrove ants. Life in the Undergrowth is some of the best 250 minutes you’ll spend in front of your T.V.
(video courtesy of BBC Worldwide)