Weevil McWeevil Face and Nettles
A Green Nettle Weevil (Phyllobius pomaceus) rests on a nettle leaf, Hermitage of Braid, Edinburgh.
Although anthropomorphism is frowned upon when observing animal behaviour, or those that disagree with your political views, this weevil is clearly crying out for some heavy handed attribution of human characteristics and behaviours.
This will be interspersed with some interesting information about weevils and nettles.
In this image Weevil McWeevil Face is clearly quietly enjoying complementing life, the nettle patch and everything.
The green nettle weevil occurs through out Britain but is less abundant in the north. It is usually found during late spring and summer, associated with the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) and habitats where nettles occur. As an adult it feeds on the stinging nettle leaves, larvae are root feeders. Some sources state it is host-specific, while others report it is also found on meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and other herbaceous plants.
A thought of more profound gravity has struck Weevil McWeevil Face. This weevil stares intently in to the distance, ruminating upon deeper meaning.
The species name, pomaceus, translates as resembling an apple, referring to its metallic bluish-green covering of scales. Colour varies, photographs taken under blue skies and natural light can appear particularly blue due to the reflective nature of the scales. As P. pomaceus matures the scales rub off and individuals may appear almost black.
The gravity of Weevil McWeevil Face's reflection results in life getting flipped-turned upside down, from just sitting there to nearly falling through the air
Living on stinging nettles may seem an unusual habitat choice but they provide a protected habitat for many insect species. Grazing animals feeding on other herbaceous plants will incidentally ingest many insects but will usually avoid nettles when the stings are active. The light touch of most insects is not sufficient to trigger the hollow stinging hairs called trichomes. Insect exoskeletons may provide additional protection.
To the casual observer it may appear that Weevil McWeevil Face is praying to the sky gods in exhalation, perhaps thanking them for preventing a fall, or imploring them to remove the clouds above the patch of nettles, its home and sustenance, and allow the sun to shine fully upon them, ensuring prosperous growth (and reproduction) for both nettles and weevils, thus ensuring more generations of devout worshippers. This is necessary in Edinburgh.
The more careful observer will notice it appears that Weevil McWeevil Face is reacting to having been stung in the ass. See centre bottom of image. One of the nettles hypodermic needle-like stinging hairs, called a trichome, is making clear contact with Weevil McWeevil Face's rear end.
Despite the misleading caption above, the stinging hair touching the rear of the weevil has not fired. The fragile silica tip remains intact and the bulbous base of the hair remains full of the venomous chemical cocktail. An occurrence contrary to contemporary botanical and entomological understanding has not been observed.
Over 63 seconds after the previous image Weevil McWeevil Face still appears to be reacting to a painful sting, however this anthropomorphising has gone too far and it is important to note its serious role in causing humans to reach inaccurate and misleading conclusions. The careful observer will note that the sun is shining more intensely than before.
When humans and other animals brush the stinging hairs, the tip breaks off and the hair acts like a hypodermic needle, piercing the skin and injecting venom. Several chemicals are responsible for the pain and inflammation. The neurotransmitters acetylcholine, histamine and serotonin, the 'happy hormone' responsible for, amongst other roles, maintaining a sense of well-being and security in humans, acts as a super-irritant when injected by the nettle.
Experimental injections with these substances do not recreate the same level of pain and inflammation, or duration. Some researchers report formic acid, leukotrienes (constituents of snake venoms) and moroidin, are also present. Further research is required to determine if additional substances or synergistic effects are responsible for the prolonged pain and inflammation.
Weevil McWeevil Face may not be interested in the chemical composition of nettle venom, despite its role in protecting nettle weevils.
Nettle sting treatment for humans
Humans, like many other mammals, have thin skin, and learn to avoid nettles. Avoidance and prevention is accordingly recommended. Do not rely on unreliable advice from the internet (for example, this page). Symptoms of contact are usually not severe and pain subsides within 15 minutes to an hour. The rash and swelling within 24 hours. Avoid rubbing, scratching or touching the affected area for the first several minutes, as this may push the irritants further into the skin. Washing the area and applying antihistamine or corticosteroid cream or a cold compress is probably the best treatment. Taking an NSAID may help relieve pain and swelling.
Seek medical advice if the stung area is widespread or symptoms do not improve within 24 hours. In rare cases an individual may be allergic to the plant or substances released. Treat this as a medical emergency and contact emergency services if you notice signs or symptoms including; difficulty breathing; tightening of the throat or chest; swelling around the mouth or face (particularly if not stung there); a rash extending beyond the stung area; stomach cramp or upset; vomiting, or diarrhoea.
The Red Cross and St John Ambulance both offer excelent free apps that can be installed on your smartphone or tablet, providing fast and easy to access to first aid information and techniques, with no internet connection needed. They also offer a range of courses, as do other providers. (Take a first aid course and ask yourself and others why it is not part of the school curriculum worldwide).
Traditional folk remedies such as rubbing the stung area with dock leaves or urinating on it have no scientific backing, but the strength of the placebo affect, or belief in pseudo-science should not be underestimated in non-severe cases, especially if someone is winging. The act of doing something may at least take their mind of it. Try for several minutes to not find a dock leaf, in order to prevent premature rubbing, or to have the ability to pee.
As I took my eye away from the looking glass, Weevil McWeevil Face said "Perhaps you overthink things...