Thursday, 7 June 2012

Model Insect

The forest teemed with invertebrates, from ants large and small, just starting in that mid-June season to troop about, to the nightmarish naked red sow bug killer spiders that invaded my tent. One day I watched a grey Emasculata moth, just out of its chrysalis, inflate its brand-new wings in a sunny patch on the Grove's floor. Their tiny feathers were the colour of hornet paper and patterned precisely after the mature alders in the upper swale, fifty yards west.

The same day a banded alder borer beetle (Rosalia funebris), in the same colours, attempted time and again to climb onto my mat while I was eating. Roughly a carpal long, not counting its sweeping antennae, the elegant bug looked exactly like the frozen World War II dogfight that hung from my bedroom ceiling when I was in middle school; as if another thirteen-year old had assembled its black plastic parts, and then, squinting at the picture on the box, daubed on a thick breakup of ash with an overlarge brush. Its coarsely-jointed, heavily-banded feelers looked 
especially styrene; I could almost make out where fingers had flinched painting those invasion stripes. 

Despite the sinister ring of its names, the larvae of this harmless beetle mostly eat dead and down wood, and so evade the county extension hit list. Adults are famously attracted to fresh paint, flocking to newly-coated barns and fences like crane flies to a candle. Something in the chemistry apparently mimics their pheromones. Which may explain the robotic resolve of this one in mounting and re-mounting my polyethylene zabuton.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia and Sean McCann.)
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