The mite Histiostoma blomquisti and creationism in Louisiana/ USA

New Orleans is a dynamic and a very lively city, a city full of freedom and tolerance, a city of life style and of a unique cuisine. A mix-up of ethic groups and cultures, New Orleans, the modern city, a world metropolis.

But this is not Louisiana, it is an island, an exception, New Orleans is not even the capital of this Southern Federal State. The rest of Louisiana is landscape, swamps, wetlands, pine woods, red sand, even a Red River, harmless snakes and a touch of music, not any kind of music, Louisiana is the birthplace of Jazz.

LA is unfortunately also home land of a strict two class society, with the white race in a top position and the native Americans and the blacks on a level much further below. The latter inhabit usually the so called „no go-areas“. That’s where poverty lives, where a permanent existential emergency dominates the daily routine, and yes, where based on all this distress also criminality finds a new home again and again.

It’s a land, where racism is still alive, where colored people take over the minor jobs, while the whites reign over in high positions. A land of injustice, of inconsistency, a land of religious fanaticism.

Nevertheless, beauty can be found everywhere. When the setting sun illuminates the colorful water of the Red river or shines on lying around rusty metal scrap, then a  spectacle of glowing colors blinds the eyes of the audience. When I walked across the fields and forests, then I found an inspiring silence, a flood of harmonic nature impressions, giant millipedes of Polydesmida hiding under freely lying stone chunks, butterflies colonizing rotting fruits and fluttering with a gentle noise in the air, colorful water turtles taking their sun baths around ponds, and under suitable weather conditions I witnessed wedding celebrations of a very special kind: winged ants rose in the air to mate for their first and only time.

The most common ant species is the Red Imported fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta, a fascinating social insect, but far away from being native to Louisiana. It is a so called invasive species, which was transferred to the Southern US via ballast substrate of ships coming from Southern America. The high frequency of ant colonies in Louisiana makes that species to a worthwhile research object, and even especially being an unwelcome invader, which needs to be better understood to successfully be fought.

As most known ant species, also S. invicta is characterized by hosting a remarkable number of non-ant-inhabitants in their nests, for example mites. One mite species attracted a special attention due to its habit to appear in great numbers on winged ant females and rarely also on their males. Nobody was competent to describe it taxonomically, but I was, that’s why I travelled in 2009 to the Southern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service in Pineville, funded by the German DFG (German Research Foundation). I was very friendly and courteously hosted by the 80 years old colleague John C. Moser, who supported my research by providing access to a microscope and preparation equipment. Although he did not participate directly in my taxonomic work, I honored his contributions of ideas and his interest in my work by offering him a co-authorship.

After the species description was already almost finished and the discussion was about the species‘ name, he unexpectedly insisted in the epitheton „blomquisti“, to honor his assistant Stacy Blomquist. Although he surely was depending on her young dynamic power, I was certainly not amused about this choice. Mrs. Blomquist appeared me being too much involved into the kind of spiritual devoutness, which seemed me to be typical for the whole land. But there was no way out, the species was finally named Histiostoma blomquisti Wirth & Moser, 2010. As a consequence, my name would be forever  connected with hers, an immutable fact. But I still have the freedom to emphasize that I until today think that a biological assistant without a high and internationally well known scientific reputation never deserves a species being named after her. I additionally insist in the fact that I unsolicited would never honor somebody I consider a religious activist with my scientific work. Thus I announce herwith my strict distance to Mrs. Blomquist, who accidentally became namesake of my species.

As all Southern US-States, Louisiana is a land dominated by the creationism, being part of the so called bible belt. I was told that the separation between blacks and whites even goes thus far that there exist black and white churches, but I experienced for sure that Chinese inhabitants are priviledged to be considered white, thus visiting the white churches.

Once I was invited to a private video evening. It was organized by a Chinese assistant of the research institute and a white colleague of him, a hobby marathon runner. They presented the 2003 US/ German/ British co-production „Luther“ with Joseph Fiennes in the main role. Directed by the British Eric Till, this very average movie with a Martin Luther, attractive, slim, completely unlike the historical original, fat with a strong penchant for alcohol, was a strange choice for me as a cineaste, but I expected an entertaining popcorn evening with discussions about good and bad movies. But what I then witnessed was very unexpected.

It was so silent that I could hear the air breath, the flies buzzing around, a mysterious expectation filled the room, while my two hosts stared to the screen, awaiting the first appearance of „Martin Luther“ with religious reverence and deistic adoration. I landed in a private divine service, and when Joseph Fiennes appeared for the first time, both raised their arms ecstatically into the air, praising Luther as the great only one. It kept going on like this, no popcorn for me, but very frequent cigarette breaks instead, I fled outside as often as I could.

It is a well known phenomenon that in areas of unjustice worldwide natives tend to protect their own conscience with an unfounded belief to stand under a special supervision by a god. Only a god of immorality and misanthropy claimes to have created the planet and all life on it within six days, only such a god supports the inequality of races and the discrimination of minorities.

Berlin, November 2017

Histiostoma blomquisti on fire ant queens

Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

 

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