saving lives, and front garden in spring

October 12, 2021

Yesterday I saved the lives of 5 insects that had fallen into the birdbath: 3 tiny flies, one small Christmas beetle and one small caterpillar. There was also an aphid, but I squashed it. Mercy doesn't extend that far.

I don't think it's going to make much difference to the alarming loss of biomass of insect populations. But it felt like a good thing to do and it was satisfying.

I have from time to time attempted to relocate small critters from the house to the garden. I've given up doing this as it usually ends badly. Like the time I broke the leg of the small lizard the dog was interested in. Similarly with the beetle in the kitchen. It panicked and kept trying to get away. It wouldn't crawl onto my hand so I couldn't take it outside. I gave up but I'm afraid I may have inadvertently harmed its delicate body.

Christmas Beetle, Anoplognathus sp.
Photographer: Ian R. McCann
Source: Museums Victoria

In contrast to this, rescuing drowning insects is easy if you manage to fish them out before they are dead. Insects float on the surface, unable to get away because of the water pressure. The rescued flies lay on my hand and moved their wings ineffectually. Because they were wet they couldn't fly. I moved into the sun. They dried out and eventually off they flew.

The beetle I fished out walked round and round my hand. I could feel the grip of its sticky legs. After a while I moved it onto a stick and watched it. It didn't move. I could tell this was not an optimal habitat, so I gently knocked it off the stick onto the earth.

The Christmas beetle immediately came to life, wriggling, tunnelling under the soil. I watched the earth move. Then it disappeared. Was it trying to recover its lost larvahood? Christmas beetle larvae live underground and feed on roots. Adults eat eucalyptus leaves. What was going on? Perhaps this particular individual behaved as it did because of post traumatic stress? Maybe I'm anthropomorphizing. Interspecies understanding and communication is not easy.

Here are some more photos of the front garden in spring.

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