Killing for a Living: Hunters of the Underworld
A human's nature documentary.
Produced by Bernard Walton
Written by David Helton
Commented on by Dr Beetle

Well, the BBC discovery channel has done it again. More distortion and innuendo all aimed at demonizing the invertebrate world. By underworld, are they meaning in the same league as gangsters and mobsters? If figuratively, they got it wrong, because in nearly any forest, most insects live above in the canopy and branches, which by their logic should be the 'upperworld' or 'uppercrust'.

I am not sure if the narrator's voice was borrowed after a horror movie audition, or if they just developed and practiced the tone to colorfully illustrate their objection to the existence of the invertebrate 'underworld'.
Take for example, the piece on the scorpion. And I quote "The scorpion is a fully armed terrorist." Now anyone with an ounce of compassion might try to see a more natural and bright side to the scorpion, but no, this is a human documentary. "Its claws can grapple with anything on its own scale. And the venom on its tail can kill practically anything on any scale. Even humans fear it". Well, lock up your children and hide your wives! But, as far as I know, a scorpion has killed no human in Australia, even though millions of both live here. If this were a piece on another human race, the program's producers would be up on charges for their bigoted prejudice. But of course, the scorpion cannot defend itself in court.

In another piece, after describing how some wasps tranquilize their prey to produce food or 'slaves' to their larvae, we get another spray of human venom. "There may seem to be something cold, cold-hearted about the mothers of the underworld. About the way they leave their offspring to slaves or chance. But they're not all like that (Oh, spare me the charity!).
An earwig for example, cares (I have never heard the word 'cares' spoken in such a despising way!). She lays her eggs and stays with them, ready to defend them against all the special horrors that only the underworld can produce" As far as I'm concerned, the horror is the human. It is not the earwig or scorpion that has caused the mass genocide of other species.

And then we are taught about termites: "In fact, a termite mound is so self-contained, that it is a shock on the scale of Godzilla when the outside world intrudes. The citizens can only stand by helplessly as an aardvark, a termite eater, destroys their skyscraper walls." During this scene, we are shown an aardvark breaking into a termite mound to feed, as soldier termites bearing large mandibles stand by in futile defense. The scene continues "As with any great disaster, the aftermath brings troubles of its own. A gecko has come in through the aardvark wreckage, to pick off more termites as they try to rebuild. However sophisticated the underworld becomes, its inhabitants are constantly reminded that they live on a planet otherwise populated by sinister giants. There is nothing they can do about it" The penultimate sentence might be true, especially when the sinister giants refers to humans!

The termites the gecko is feeding upon have soldiers of Nasutitermes type, where the head is shaped like a funnel with mandibles greatly reduced (they defend by spraying chemical repellants through the tube-like mouth, rather than by biting). They are nothing like the termites in the mound entered by the aardvark. Therefore, the scene where the gecko is supposed to have swooped in after the aardvark, in sinister and relentless underworld fashion, is a fabrication. But then again, who said the truth should get in the way of a good nature documentary! (Posted January 2002)


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