|White-barred gypsy moth - but what's with the green|
bubbles around the head?
Our house, which is now close on a century old, was ideally decrepit to host innumerable such critters. So is my present abode, which may be just as old, and just as riddled with rot and hospitable cracks and crannies. Just the visible spectrum of my diminutive housemates is endlessly fascinating. Most people, of course, regard themselves as desperately at war with the insect world – not entirely without reason. But most people fail to recognise that we could scarcely exist without insects, that the world of vegetation and oxygen and fertility on which we depend is intimately and irreplaceably serviced by them. Insects preceded us by millions of years, they outnumber us by an order of hundreds, and they will almost certainly outlive us. However our demise might transpire, it will very likely leave behind what Jonathan Schell, in his book on nuclear holocaust, The Fate of the Earth, dubbed “a republic of insects and grass”.
|Who was it said caterpillars are longer-lived, more complex, |
and just as beautiful as the butterflies they become?
|Handsome fellow - a longhorn beetle?|
|This has to be the sweetest defence mechanism.|
|Flattie snacking on a damselfly.|
The six-leggers are even more numerous and varied than the eight-leggers – partly because many of them also have wings and like to gather at the windows at night, trying to get in, or inside during the day, trying to get out. Dozens of moths of unidentifiable species, even the tiniest of which are beautifully marked on close examination; and lost butterflies – Painted Ladies and Green-banded Swallowtails and, most commonly of late, Garden Inspectors. An occasional dragonfly flashes blue and frantic and metallic along the windowsills. Wasps of various kinds – the Polistes Paper wasps who build their clustered nests under my porch eaves, the Potter wasp who leaves her little amphora of mud stuck to a window pane, and the leisurely but menacing Yellowjacket, legs all a-dangle – an imported foreigner, like me. Flies, of course: big galleon-like flies off the neighbours goose-pen, down to the tiny fruit-flies hovering over that neglected banana, and the soft little triangular guys, Psychodid Moth Flies. who favour the toilet-bowl.
|Philoliche aethiopica - I think.|
Finally, one will never escape the ants, that most accomplished of all terrestrial societies. There is an occasional raid on my honey by a couple of glowing Spotted sugar-ants, but mostly it’s the little guys – the mop-it-ups – who find their way with uncanny speed to anything tasty or dead and swiftly devour and cart it away. On at least two corners of the house, trains of Argentine ants travel up and down, in greater numbers when it’s about to rain, servicing heaven knows what vast, diffuse cities beneath my roof and riddling my foundations. Not termites, thankfully, though every so often a suspicious drift of light brown shavings of something structural accumulates on the edge of the bath...