OK, all of you who keep saying there are good reasons to be afraid of mummies, get ready with your “I told you so!” A mummy found in Poland (you read that right – we’ll explain) didn’t walk but caused its discoverers to run when they saw it was filled with bees, wasps and an angry squirrel. What, no moose?
“The uniqueness of our discovery lies in the fact that no one before us had the opportunity to describe a case of nesting of these species of animals inside a human corpse found in a tree.”
Oh, and the mummy was in a tree! That fact and even more interesting details were revealed in a study co-authored by Dr. Marcin Kadej from the Institute of Environmental Biology, University of Wrocław, and published in the journal Forensic Science International. According to a press release, the mummified body, discovered in 2016 by a passerby luckily looking up, was hanging about 25 meters (82 feet) up a spruce tree in Lower Silesia in southwestern Poland. Initial forensic analysis determined that it was a man who had disappeared in September 2003.
The mummy was brought down by Łukasz Szleszkowski of the Wroclaw Medical University and taken to a lab, where they found a large number of creatures had made homes in it. These included the usual (for corpses) Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera (horse flies), and Neuroptera (lacewings). However, they were stunned (and possibly stung) by the unique discovery (in a corpse) of nests containing Central Russian bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) and wasps (Paravespula vulgaris). Finally, when they removed the mummy’s shirt and two pairs of pants, they found the nest of a Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris).
“We know very well where they build nests, how they grow and what places they prefer for life, but this discovery shows us that human bodies, if they meet the requirements of these organisms, can also serve as their home.”
The honeybees and wasps were enough to warrant a study since this was the first known instance of finding them in a mummy. Yes, the body was partially mummified by nature. Dr. Kadej noted a number of reasons why this happened — the body was high off the ground, away from predators and scavengers; it was high above the moist forest floor that would have aided int its decay; it was vertical, which aided in preservation; and those two pairs of pants (no speculation was given for why he wore them) protected the body from the weather and kept it from falling apart.
Should funeral homes start hiring beekeepers and exterminators as hearse drivers? Dr. Kadej thinks this was a unique occurrence where a dead body in a tree acted like a tree hollow – a hole in a trunk that may contain decaying wood or matter suitable for hives. It tells us more about “the behaviour, ecology and biology of these animals.”
So, not all mummies are found in Egypt or South America, not all bees and wasps nest in hives and not all squirrels hang with moose.
Beware the mummies of Poland.
I told you so!