7/26/13

Insect Mounds and Tales

Yesterday I saw a cicada lying sideways on the ground in front of my garage door, unmoving.  I picked up the seemingly dead creature and carried it into my house, thinking I would appreciate it in some sort of artistic capacity later (a painting, collage art, or maybe just interesting photo positioning).  I set it on the side of my kitchen counter and then got to working on other things.

A little later, I didn’t see it where I had placed it, but found it fairly quickly, a tiny bit farther along the counter, moving its wings – so clearly it WASN’T dead.  I carefully gathered it via paper towel, carried it back outside, set it on the ground and took some photos of it - then I carried it to a tree and placed it atop a small branch where it seemed fairly comfortable, and took some photos of it there.

Shortly after placing it on that tree, a man who lives in my neighborhood, who does a lot of walking (and since we were often encountering each other when I was walking my dog, we finally introduced each other some months ago and got to taking little talking breaks when we see each other in the midst of a walk) was walking past my front yard – and I felt compelled to walk over to him and show & tell him about the cicada.

I also told him about how many years ago, when I was a little girl and there was a cicada influx, my sisters and I would pick up small tons of dead cicada bodies off the ground, form them all into a circular mound, and then position our pet cat in front of the mound and watch it eat the cicadas.(Golly, after what happened yesterday, with me thinking a cicada was dead, but it was still alive, I hope we weren’t feeding that cat a bunch of cicadas that were still alive and turning our cat into some sort of small white casper the friendly ghost cannibal  or something. That was our cats name. Well, not casper the friendly ghost cannibal.  Just casper.)

Then the man told me an amusing tale about how years ago, his yard had a lot of hornets and his little boy and little girl were scared of being stung by a hornet, so they became uncomfortable playing outside.  One day they were outside with him and one of his buddies and were about to head right back in as soon as they saw a hornet.  He asked them why they were so afraid of hornets and they said because if a hornet stung them, it would hurt really bad.  He told them so what if it stung them; it wouldn’t hurt that bad at all – and then he grabbed the flying hornet with his hand and flung it down to the ground.  See it stung me and that didn’t hurt, he told his kids – and then they stayed outside.  As soon as the kids moved away from the dad, his friend said, are you kidding?  Getting stung by a hornet didn’t hurt you that bad?  He said, hell yes it did, but now the kids are going to be comfortable playing outside.

***

I immediately wanted to tell him another story after that, but I could tell that my brain was going to have a lot of word issues if I quickly launched into that tale – and I didn’t feel like getting into the whole ‘why I sometimes have word issues’ talk with a guy I don’t know all that well, so that sort of bummed me out (but not nearly as bad as what bummed me out about my ‘health issues’ later last night, but I’ll get into that later, in a different blog post, maybe).

A little while after talking with that guy, I took my dog for another walk – and while walking him, I concentrated on trying to think of the easy words that wouldn’t quickly pop out of my head re: the next tale I’d wanted to share with him.  The main two were ‘bee’ and ‘lemonade’ – but also ‘pheromones’ and ‘insecticide’. It took me a while to get all those words.  They definitely wouldn’t have emerged in a sudden conversation, unfortunately.

However, now that I’ve finally managed to gather those words, I’ll tell the story to myself and whoever reads this blog. The tale was about how many years ago, when I was in high school, during some summers, I worked at the state fair, in some food booths.  Once I was working in the homemade lemonade booth with another girl – and about five bees entered the booth and were buzzing around a window, so we quickly killed them.

What we hadn’t known but soon found out was that dead bees release pheromones that attract other bees. Within about half an hour our booth was infiltrated with hundreds upon hundreds of bees – and at some point we realized that killing them kept attracting more and more and more, so we stopped killing them.  Since it was a fair booth serving a beverage we couldn’t spray insecticide in there and still stay open – and since the fair only lasted about a week, the owner did not want to close down the booth and lose all sales for a day – so we had to keep it open and be surrounded by bees.

I remember feeling very uncomfortable at first - remembering the discomfort of being stung by bees in the past and worried that now I was bound to be stung multiple times.  Guess what though?  I wasn’t stung a single time that day, even though I had times were a bee landed on me or was crawling on my hand.  After a while, I stopped feeling uncomfortable and realized every time I’d been stung by a bee in the past was because I had been wearing no shoes outside and accidentally stepped on it.  Why would a bee want to release its stinger and die unless that was a defense mechanism or a reaction to being stomped to death?

Hundreds of bees were flying around my head, crawling around the walls, crawling on the table near me, occasionally crawling on my hand and not a single one stung me.  After that experience and what it lead me to realize, never again did I swipe my hand at a bee flying near my face or a bee accidentally landing on me and then crawling on my clothing – because it now seems obvious to me that if you swipe at a bee that would make it much more likely to sting, because it would feel threatened - whereas if you just let it crawl on you for a minute, it will soon realize you’re not a plant brimming with nectars and it will fly away.  I still see lots of people swiping at bees though.

The only time I was ever stung by a bee in my adult life was when I was wearing flip flops, exited a car door and accidentally stepped on one. 

***


Back to hornets though, those creatures are a different ball game. They’re mean, more aggressive, and more prone to sudden random stings. I guess my neighbor is lucky that one of his kids didn’t get stung by a hornet the next day and then lose their father trusting feathers at a young age.