Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is that a stick I see walking?

I like insects, just as long as they don't take up residence inside my house.

Take for instance the giant beetle that was snarling up a storm the other day on my front porch.

Buggy eyed and hard shelled, that little guy was not a happy camper. By the hissing sound he was making, I wasn't sure if he was ill or just having a bad day.

When I looked up what type of beetle he was, my hopes were quickly dashed to learn that beetles are the largest order of insects in the world. Trying to find his exact image in a mug shot would take forever and I just don't have the time.

When I called for my husband, Brian, to come and see, he said, "Oh, that's a June Bug."

"Ah, a June Bug!" I said, still fascinated while examining the intricate pattern on his reddish brown bulky physique.

That reminded me of an awareness I had the other day when a cicada landed on the screen of my office window during a downpour.

The sight of him distracted me from my work, which is unusual for my intensely focused self.

When I stepped over to the window to get a closer look, I was amazed at the design of his variegated underbelly and intricately veined wings.

Hanging on for dear life, he remained affixed to my screen, waiting out the storm while lightning and thunder provided a background of high drama.

I mentioned the cicada to a co-worker, thinking she'd want to come and see. It was obvious by her non-response that my interest in the bug was boring and that I needed to get a life. Oh well, I thought, her loss, my gain.  

When I start thinking about insects, sometimes I can't stop. Some of the bugs I find most interesting disguise themselves in nature as a form of self-defense.

Like the Dead-leaf Moth, which can easily be taken for what else but a dead leaf.

I'm mesmerized by how the young caterpillars of Dead-leaf Moths hide in nature disguised as seed-filled bird droppings. How brilliant is that, pretending to be animal do-do. Older ones appear to be chubby green worms with large spots that pose as fake eyes. Wow, that's so cool!

Another impostor is the American Walking Stick. Brownish in color, this insect often is mistaken for a twig. It's been awhile since I saw one, but I'll never forget my first encounter. Lanky and somewhat clumsy in its movements, that wingless bug lumbered along a tree branch. Not believing my eyes, I blurted, "That's a walking stick!"

Don't get me started on the lime-green Katydid that camouflages itself by blending into corn rows and bean stalks. Come to think of it, I should have a bumper sticker on my bike that reads, "I brake for bugs." It's not unusual for me to stop and examine all sorts of strange-looking creepy crawlers.

Once while I was on a walk in Central Pennsylvania, I found the most beautiful giant yellow butterfly lying dead on the side of the road. I have this lovely creature preserved under a glass frame in my office. More than once, I've gotten blank stares from people when I explain why there's a dead butterfly on my desk.

The more I think of it, the more I realize that my interest in bugs makes me an oddball of sorts.

A lot of the women I know instantly would jump onto chairs while screaming bloody murder at the site of my little insect friends. And just about everybody, except for maybe two-year olds, squish bugs at first sight.

But that's just not me. I hover, intently study their complicated patterns, movements, and then run and tell anyone who will listen, "Come and see!"

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national and state award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took first-place awards statewide. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.





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