27 Oct

Protichneumon Poetry

Female Protichneumon Grandis (Photo by Tom Murray)

Female Protichneumon Grandis
(Photo by Tom Murray)

An introduction:

          In my usual perambulations around the Markey ranch, I ran across the insect pictured here.  After hours of searching, I had learned the Latin name, Protichneumon Grandis (which is a form of Ichneumon Grandis), but little else. I searched through my two insect guides as well as the Internet to no avail.  Finally, I used EBSCO, an online database provided by libraries as a search engine to help students researching school topics.  It was there that I made a most unusual discovery.

          It seems that in 1932, The Saturday Evening Post published a poem by humorist and poet Ogden Nash that began this way:

“Ichneumons are fond of little ichneumons,

And lions of little lions,

But I am not fond of little humans,

I do not believe in scions.”

-Ogden Nash, “Who is a Happy Parent?”

          Now, this is the only mention of the insect in the entire poem.  The rest is about Nash’s fondness (or lack thereof) for “little humans”.  So the (likely) unanswerable question is, why on earth did he choose such an obscure name?  Well, I’m having enough trouble finding out about the little wasp I saw crawling among the leaves out in the woods without going down that road.  Still, Nash inspired me to approach this week’s blog in a slightly different form. Hope you like it.

The Wasp

The Protichneumon Grandis

may seem just a bit outlandish

when her friends all very simply call her Wasp.

But with cousin names peaking

at three thousand types, this speaking

is a name that all must simply learn to grasp.


It’s an insect mostly slender

Totes her eggs in places tender

combing forest floors like a black and red tinged ghost.

To a caterpillar crawling

she becomes just a bit appalling

as she oviposits eggs upon that host.


Later on when those eggs start cracking

and the young set about their snacking

on the hapless fuzzy ‘pillar who became their nest

I hope for the sake of heaven

as their waspish bellies leaven

they’ll say “thanks” as the bug goes to its rest.


                                                                                                    – HJM

Leave a comment