Useful Insects…

In the storyworld of Strange Metamorphosis there is a host of bugs which include both good guys and villains, but in the real world, is it fair to say there are some useful insects and all the others are a nuisance? Of course, capricorn beetles drill holes in house timber, mosquitoes transmit disease, and a bee can be deadly to someone with a sting allergy. There again, so do humans tear down timber and spread disease, and in fact they are the most destructive single living species on earth.

This section is dedicated to insects featured in the storyworld of Strange Metamorphosis. I have decided to take the more positive approach of considering that bugs are no more harmful to people or to the environment than humans themselves. In fact, when you look more closely you will see that all species of bugs, everyone single one of them, participate in the design of Ma Nature.

Before I do, though, I must admit, as a boy I did like to stamp on ants and watch them disperse, and many a time instigated wars between red and black ones. And I must confess, after various experiments on a nest near the backdoor using water and fire—which generally only had a minor impact on the daily running of the colony—I resorted to the ultimate arm which got them in the end. I poured washing-up liquid into their outlets. It wiped them clean out, the whole colony. I had made a great discovery that mankind could adapt for the sake of the sugar bowl. However, I was later to find out that the formidable chemical weapon was already known to man. It was my biology teacher who taught us how to bring worms up to the surface with a mixture of it poured onto the grass from a bucket. I wonder if he gave a thought for the earth he was asking us to poison in the process, though?

I was already well into my twenties when I began reading the works of the great French naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre. Though I had already met entomologists, this was like a revelation. I realized that insects are not specifically good or evil, they simply have a role to play, and every one of a same species will unselfishly follow the same handbook to the letter.

Fabre’s depiction of them is captivating. He had a sense of story, a way of pulling you in and inviting you to learn about things without even knowing it, not unlike reading Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle. Much better than the indigestible text books and field books entomologists had written before, and still continue to write today. His Souvenirs Entomologiques are a joy to read, which, as I say, I read as much for the enchanting prose as for the fascinating insight to insect behaviors it portrays. Jean-Henri Fabre had a long life, he died at the age of 91 in 1915, not long after Marcel faces up to his dilemma.

Anyway, I was saying, over the next few weeks I shall be adding portraits of insects in the book but viewed in a positive light and listing their utility in the wheel of life and the design of nature. As I am only an amateur in this field, though I’ll do my research as best I can, I’m certain to overlook or not be aware of some useful traits of these bugs, and I’m counting on your help to fill me in.

So please, feel free to collaborate with me on this list. Send me your comments with the source of your knowledge (a book, study or experiment) and I will be happy to write them into the bug briefs.

What are mosquitoes for?

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