Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Wildlife and territory: Encounters with insects

I live in a warm, moist part of the world and it's summer. Perfect conditions for bugs (for insects, if you prefer). The paradigm was brought home to me with some alarming vigour tonight as I was sitting on the couch watching some TV when a two-and-a-half-inch-long cockroach calmly rotored through the sliding windows to the balcony and landed on the curtain and I thought "You're fucking kidding me" because it's only every couple of years that this happens, and then I thought "No fucking way" as I got up quickly heading for the Pea Beu - the fly spray; I've had house flies coming at me a fair bit especially on the hottest days (and it has been very hot recently) so it was handy beside my desk - which I wielded efficiently against my brown opponent - wings fluttering, long body hanging down, a slow-moving target - so that it eventually scuttled on its legs out the sliding doors back into the night, with me in pursuit, protecting my territory.

Beyond the doors, of course, is the incomprehensible immensity of Queensland: a place the size of Alaska and peopled with around 4.5 million souls. I live in a regional town and I come across insects on a daily basis. Insect avoidance is a routine part of my existence, like making meals or sleeping. Each time I walk down the street I have to swerve to avoid one form of bug or another. They seem to get confused by the conservative stripes and checks of my shirts; they head straight for me, making me step aside. There may be no other people on the street with me but there are always bugs out there.

There are small bugs and large ones and middle-sized ones, but I step aside to avoid them all. There are even wasps. These slow-moving orange menaces fly in jerks and starts so you don't know what they'll do. They're expert fliers, their long legs hanging down adding additional threat because you imagine them settling on you and grasping for extra purchase while they stab you. I take long detours to avoid wasps; it's not just a matter of stepping aside. I go around bushes. I leave the path and walk in a wide arc. Usually though, I just sort of prop for a moment when chance brings me into confrontation with an insect, hesitating while they go about their legitimate buggy business. I avoid contact with all the insects I meet on the street. They have right of way in my opinion and I let them get on with whatever they're doing, in perfect peace. I'm in no hurry. I prefer to give ground, surrender the way, and pass on unmolested. It's their territory as much as it is mine.

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