Mauna Kea Wekiu Bug

Mauna Kea Wekiu Bug
Mauna Kea Volcano Observatory

We have frequently pointed out the importance of recycling agents in the natural world. They are creatures that take waste material of any kind and process it so that our planet is not inundated with excrement and dead bodies. The microbes that process dead material and produce soil, the dung beetles that handle excrement, and the vultures that eat carrion are among those recyclers essential to our environment. From the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory comes a recent discovery of another recycling agent to handle waste most of us would not even know existed. It’s the Mauna Kea wekiu bug (Nysius wekiuicola).

In 1980, scientists on Mauna Kea in Hawaii discovered the wekiu bug that handles natural waste on the summits of mountains where it is too cold for life to exist. At these extreme elevations, the jet stream, typhoons, and other sources of high elevation winds deposit the dead bodies of insects and birds. Instead of those bodies piling up, the Mauna Kea wekiu bug processes them. It’s a beetle whose name comes from the Hawaiian word for “summit.” This bug is specially designed to process mountaintop waste.

The wekiu bug has a straw-shaped mouth that it inserts into a dead insect or bird, allowing the bug to draw out any fluids or nutrients. That leaves the hard parts, which crumble and are carried away by rain, snow, ice, and wind. Even in this very inhospitable area for life, with frequent temperatures well below freezing and no surviving plant life, these bugs process organic material. The Mauna Kea wekiu bug is another example of God’s design to provide balance in nature. He created a natural system designed to allow the constant reprocessing of organic materials so that our planet can support an abundance of all kinds of life.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The PBS series of Planet Earth for 2022 and Wikipedia.