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IPFS News Link • Animals and Pets

Silent and Deadly: Fatal Farts Immobilize Prey


The beautiful animal in the photo above is a Beaded Lacewing. While the adults are delicate and lovely, they begin life as ferocious tiny predators lurking in the nests of termites. These larvae live unmolested in their nest, silently striking down termites from behind—and for one species, with their behind.

When a baby Lomamyia latipennis gets hungry, it stuns a termite with a "vapor-phase toxicant" released from its anus. That's a fancy way of saying it farts on it. In fact, their farts are powerful enough to immobilize six termites with one blow.

This is how you wield a Death Fart, if you are a small predatory neuropteran:

"A larva repeatedly approached and retreated until the tip of its abdomen was directed at the termite's head. The apex of the abdomen was lifted and waved past the termite's face, without contact. The termite… was not repelled, as it made no obvious effort to escape. One to three minutes later it was incapacitated, lying supine, with its legs moving irregularly."

Once the larva delivers its toxic toot, it can leisurely scuttle over and chow down. If a few extra termites are caught in the backdraft, that's just extra food.

In laboratory tests, experimenters determined the fecal fume-induced paralysis lasted for three hours, and if not eaten, the termites eventually died. Even more astonishing is that early stage L. latipennis are tiny, about 0.07 mg in size. The average size of their termite prey was 2.5mg. That is some seriously potent flatulence.

The experimenters coaxed the larvae into farting on other insects commonly found in termite nests—fruit flies, two kinds of small wasp, and book lice—but they were unaffected. The spectacular sphincter specificity of the species seemed only affected by size; very large termites (>5mg) were slightly stunned.

How Do You Weaponize a Fart?

Beaded lacewings have been described as "unaccountably neglected… Generally speaking, very little is known about Berothidae at present." There aren't any good photos of this species, other than some older black and white blurry photos.