September 17th, 2005


Nature Red in Mandible and Claw

Today, as I was headed out to the car, I heard a loud mechanical buzzing. This is not unusual, since we have cicadas, but this differed from the sort of rising and falling buzz in unison we usually get, presumably as a result of cicadas doin' the wave or something.

This was a loud, agitated, frantic buzz, and as I glanced around, I saw something plummet from the trees and land on the other side of the car.

Never one to leave well enough alone, I padded around the car, and spotted a thrashing ball on the ground. I approached cautiously, and the flailing, rolling melee resolved itself into what was, indeed, a very agitated cicada, and the source of its agitation, a large wasp stingin' the hell out of it.

I crouched in the dirt for at least five minutes, watching as bug fought bug, the cicada thrashing its immense wings in that loud buzzing noise and flipping wildly, the sleeker wasp moving with a kind of businesslike savagery. As I watched, the wasp nipped into the cicada, occasionally pressing its abdomen against the cicada's belly (stinging it again? laying eggs? who knew?) At one point, a not-quite-a-giant-but-still-respectably-large millipede trundled by, was knocked sprawling by the cicada's wings, rolled a few times, and trundled rapidly away, wanting no truck with the battle.

As odd as it may be, in this bug-infested state, I had never actually seen a cicada. I knew they were there, and I hear them practicing their chitinous music every day (all they ever do are scales.) but I was never sure what they looked like. I think I expected them to look like locusts--after all, they come in waves like locusts!--but I wasn't expecting this sort of gray-green oval with a white belly and such enormous wings. The wasp had a dark red head, but was otherwise an ordinary sort of wasp. As the cicada's struggles were slowing, and buzzing only in intervals now, I was sure the wasp was going to win the encounter.

Alas, I had to be somewhere, so I got into the car after a few minutes and drove off, wondering if the wasp was going to eat it, or lay eggs in it, or make a little hat out of it, or what. I returned two hours later and inspected the area. Aha! The cicada was still there, wings still, with a gaping hole where the underside of its head had been, apparently hollowed out by the ravenous wasp.

I knew that sort of thing had to go on, but I'd never actually seen it before.

More Disgusting Nature

Coming back into the house this evening, I saw the number three on one of the framing boards on the porch. It was a dark brown raised number, dully shiny and metallic.

I didn't think much of it. The porch is littered with brass handles at about that height, as the previous owner of this house was an elderly woman who had a difficult time getting around. No reason there couldn't be a metal three there, like a house number or something.

Well, it was a little odd, since our house number isn't three.

Still, I had food in hand, and it was getting dark, and I was hungry, so I was fumbling for keys, and James squawked "Ecck! It's slugs!"

"What? I thought it was a three!"

"It is! Of slugs!"

I leaned in and looked, and sure enough, the three that had a moment before been as precise and regular as anything stamped from a machine had deformed slightly, and was wandering off. It was a pair of large leopard slugs.

We considered this.

"Maybe they're letting the other slugs know that there's three of us--you, me, and the cat--so they know how many to kill."

We agreed that this was the most likely scenario and went inside to eat and await the arrival of our gastropod executioners. Remember me fondly.