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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"

Bug Huntiní

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Photos courtesy The Sowdal Collection
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
News flash! We live in stressful times. I know that you are shocked and astounded to hear this and I want you to take a moment to center yourself before we go on. Focus on your breathing.

In the literature, one of the most effective weapons against malignant stress is for a person to have interests and hobbies which do not involve their careers. I have taken this advice to heart and I know that I have mentioned my new interest in photography more times than you care to remember. But, in an attempt to alleviate some of my own stress, I am going to tell you again. This will be good for you too, because as you read you will notice that your heart and respiratory rates are dropping. Your eyelids are getting heavy. Soon you will be in a boredom induced coma which you will find quite restful and I will be all perked up having spent a few moments enthusing.
butterfly on pink flower
 
Butterfly 
caterpillar
 
Caterpillar  
I woke up early this morning. While I waited for the sun to come up I assembled my camera and all its various bits and pieces. I am the recent proud owner of a set of extension tubes for doing close up or macro photography and I have been practicing and practicing. With each roll of film I get a little closer to taking good pictures. My definition of "good" is fairly loose and consists of one main criteria. This is that you are able, with minimal squinting, to tell what the subject of the picture is. Last week I got a couple of really good shots of a little green spider hiding under a leaf. I was happy with the shots, but not proud of them, because I was trying to take a picture of a little black bee and I didnít even know the spider was there. I never even saw it until I looked at the prints. The little black bee is nothing more than a dark smudge, but the spider is perfect. This gave me hope.
spider on green
 
Spider 
I thought today was probably the day that I would get some good pictures. Bug pictures. Being a burgeoning naturalist, I have observed that there are two kinds of bugs: Pretty Bugs and Icky Bugs. I do not take pictures of Icky Bugs. I am however aware that I am only a little tiny cog in the Universal Wheel and so are Icky Bugs and we all have a role to play. Icky Bugs are often the kind that eat dead stuff. My role, as I see it, is to poison the Icky Bugs and then run away.
dragongly
 
Dragonfly 
moth
 
Moth 
Pretty Bugs, according to my scientific classification system, are bees and moths and dragonflies. I learned some things that I did not know about bugs today. For example, did you know that bumble bees fight with each other? They do! They cruise around from flower to flower in kind of a stupid way, without often settling in one, "No pollen here, no pollen here, still no pollen here, youíre not a flower, no pollen left here." And then, every once in a while, one bumble bee will try to rush into a flower which is being inspected by another bee. The fight ensues. It is like watching a little old lady in a Lincoln and a little old lady in a Cadillac vying for the same parking place at the grocery store. They buzz angrily at one another, tussle for a second and then they both fall to the ground and then fly off in opposite directions acting like nothing happened. Well, that analogy is not so good, I guess, since little old ladies do not often tussle to the point of falling to the ground. But thatís what I thought of when I saw them.

Another interesting factoid about bumble bees is that they do not like to get in your hair very much. What I mean is, they will get in your hair, but they do not like it once they are there. I agree with them too! I donít like it much either. Another little interesting thing I learned today is that when I sweat my head must smell just exactly like nice delicious pollen. To a bumble bee anyway. Another little tidbit you might be interested to know is that I plan to buy a hat the next chance I get. Because even Pretty Bugs become Icky Bugs when they are all tangled up in your do.
© Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" - January 16, 2006 Column
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This page last modified: January 15, 2006