Somewhere, there’s a panda ant

For her second-grade insect report, my daughter wanted to research an unusual insect.

So we looked until we found the panda ant.

It’s actually a wingless wasp, disguised as an ant. It has a stinger near its mouth. It eats nectar. It doesn’t live in colonies like the typical wasp. It’s found on the west coast of South and Central America. And its pattern of black and white hairs make it look a bit like a panda.

Until last week, I’d never heard of it.

And then, suddenly, I was holding a hot glue gun while my seven year old assembled pipe cleaners and fuzzy pom-poms and black beans into a 3D model of this bug whose scientific name we now both knew.

We can become so accustomed to the world right in front of us–the routines that we follow, the geographical radius we inhabit–that we can start to act as if that’s all there is.

But somewhere on the coast of Chile, there’s a wasp that looks like an ant that looks like a panda.

And somehow, that small fact makes the world I live in feel larger than it used to be.