There is a mechanical wasp outbreak in Chile. Locals are warned to avoid European wasps (also known as yellowjackets) and to lock up any watches and clockwork-powered childrens’ toys. A large number of colonies are sweeping down from the North of the country, possibly originating from the area surrounding Lake Titicaca. They have just passed Pica and are largely staying out of the higher altitudes.
Mechawasps are a fairly dangerous form of self-replicating clockwork entities. At a cursory glance they are designed to look like the European wasp Vespula germanica, but closer inspection reveals tiny actuators on each wing, hinges on the legs and that the mandibles are tiny buzz saws. They aren’t directly interested in humans, but regularly invade homes in search of parts and can be dangerous. On the one hand they brew their own venom from local plants, so are less dangerous to those who are allergic to normal biological wasp stings. On the other hand their venom is often more effective and painful, depending on the ingredients.
Like their biological counterparts mechawasps form colonies headed by a queen. Only the queen units can replicate mechawasps with high enough fidelity to ensure the colony’s survival. Units made by the workers accumulate errors rapidly, becoming completely non-functional within a couple of generations. They hunt other insects for their wings and can go through a colony of normal wasps in a couple of hours. They will also track down clockwork mechanisms of all types, saw through any casings and make off with the internal gears, springs and other mechanisms. They appear to be fairly intelligent and occasionally perform difficult tasks outside their normal range of behaviour for no clear reason, for example on one occasion a colony dismantled a dead horse and carried away its tendons.
It has been hypothesised that mechawasps constitute a kind of perpetual motion machine, as they appear to wind each other up in the nest. Others suggest that they are merely incredibly efficient at energy transfer and eventually the whole “species” will wind down. The answer may be related to their unknown and mysterious origins. They have been around for at least two thousand years as they were written about in the hidden texts of Heron of Alexandria.
Since these wasps are largely staying out of mountainous areas for now it is recommended that researchers, collectors and tourists approach the swarm from the mountains so that they can either pick off or observe more isolated individuals without alerting the rest of the colony (or worse, colonies). Should you be spotted, get in a vehicle and drive for the heights as quickly as possible, and remember that in sufficient numbers the wasps can eventually peel a car apart around you.
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