Whisk Wasp Claymation
by Emily Coren and Ben Smith Whatley
A sexually deceptive orchid tricks a wasp into pollinating it by mimicking the female wasps sex pheromone. (A Neozeleboria cryptoides wasp pollinates a Chiloglottis trapeziformes orchid.)
Black Mountain, Canberra Australia
In 2011 I was visited my friend Ben Smith-Whatley, who is a children’s book illustrator and stop motion animator in Canberra, Australia. We had a week together on vacation and I talked him into trying some experimental buggy stop motion. I ran around the halls at the Australian National University, haunting my old labs and found a graduate student, Michael Whitehead, who was able to give me (on ten minutes notice) a few samples of the Neozeleboria cryptoides wasp that he was studying. The Neozeleboria cryptoides wasp gets tricked by the Chiloglottis trapeziformes orchid into thinking that it’s a female. In the process of trying to have sex with a flower, the wasp pollinates the orchid. Ben and I spent our week on vacation together, making a silly claymation of this very horny wasp. We named our wasp caricature “Whisk Wasp” because it’s wings are constructed from a cut apart whisk. I hope you find it as funny as we did.
“Rather than luring its pollinator with the promise of food this flower uses an equally, if not more, powerful motivator: sex. Undetectable to human senses, the orchid’s advertisement is a precise chemical mimicry of a female wasp’s sex pheromone. This is targeted marketing at its finest, as the use of a signature sex pheromone ensures that the orchid attracts only males of a specific species of wasp.” –Micheal Whitehead