Insects: it's a love/hate thing
There are insects we love, and then there are the others.
FLORA AND FAUNA AND THE FOREST WORLD
Living in the middle of the forest as we do, we can't ignore the fact that we are surrounded by insects. From the noisy cicadas that fill the summer air with their constant chatter to the spiders that lurk in corners of our house.
I confess that once upon a time I would have fairly happily killed a spider that threatened to leave cobwebs in my newly cleaned space , or a wasp that seemed to threaten me. But the longer I live here the more attuned I feel with nature . We are merely a small part of all this . How dare we interfere?
Have you ever stopped to watch ants as they go about their day? As soon as we have finished our breakfast croissants when eating outside on a summer morning, tiny ants will be scurrying around our feet. The lucky ones will be bearing croissant flakes like lofty penants high above their tiny frames, surmounting each piece of gravel as if it were a mighty boulder. Watch a column of ants and you may see two break free to retrieve some dead insect , much larger than themselves, and bear it back to the nest with painstaking cooperation. They are truly amazing. Or how about bees ? From the earliest hour they are out collecting pollen , long before butterflies are on the scene , and they will continue well into the evening. My favourite is the benign black carpenter bee with its blue iridescent sheen.
Sometimes we see an insect that takes our breath away like the beautiful praying mantis . And of course we adore the cricket that comes in different forms and sets up its evening chant in late summer.
But then there are the less welcome species like the flights of box moth that have recently turned up , swirling around like heavy snowstorms. They have wiped out nearly all of the box bushes on our domaine. And now that winter approaches the gauzy nests of the processionary moth caterpillar are appearing in the pines. If you read one of my earlier blogs you will remember how deadly they can be in the spring to any creature that investigates them, although they are fascinating to watch as they progress nose to tail along the forest paths.
The list of insects is endless,and all play their part in the ecology of the forest. But one insect shall remain forever unwelcome. The locals call it the 'punaise americaine' or American stink bug , as it came to Europe on a shipment of timber from California some decades ago. We first came across it here one autumn over ten years ago when these long brown insects started buzzing into our faces, and tryin to enter the house. Over the next few winters they grew worse and we would find them nestling under cushions, or hiding in window frames and lampshades in their efforts to hibernate indoors. A neighbour found her attic covered in a thick black carpet of these creatures, so she did some dedicated research to find out what they were. Finally we had a name: leptoglossus occidentalis. Now this posed us with a double dilemma. Too many in number to ignore, we had to get rid of them somehow; But how? These creatures hadn't been named stink bugs for nothing. The merest threat makes them emit a noxious smell. Stamp on them and the stink is worse. Agh! I confess we lost all moral compunction and disposed of them as best as we could. Even a friend with affiliations to the local Buddhist temple at 'Lerab Ling' was known to delicately gather them in a tissue and flush them down the loo. This autumn their numbers are in retreat . We have heard that tits love to feast on them, so perhaps, at last, they have natural predators.