Thursday, 28 April 2011

A Tale of Two Beetles

A Tale of Two Beetles and some pond snails.

Whilst walking along by the Montgomery Canal at its mid-point near Pool Quay, I was first absorbed by the plant life: a profusion of primroses, violets, ground ivy, garlic mustard, emerging cow parsley, stands of cuckoo pint at the flashing stage, and liverworts in the leaky walls of locks. But the whirligig beetles whizzing about on flat water, slaloming between new rushes and rising horsetails, soon grabbed my attention. It was like having an aerial view of expert dodgem drivers. On the water the beetles look dark – silvery black if they’ve trapped a bubble of air. They have split vision. The bottom half of their eyes are adapted to seeing under water and the top half to seeing in air. I was thrilled by their speed and agility but none of this registered with my greyhounds who wanted to move on to some shade.

The darker section of water was Pond Snail City. Most creatures were parked on the bottom like clockwise, corkscrew trailers. I expect they were guzzling detritus. A few big ones hung upside down from the surface O2ing and filling their lungs. I couldn’t resist mouthing back to them.

Back in the sunlight I noticed a beautiful dark, metallic turquoise beetle had become my brooch. A whirligig was taking a chance to be still. I felt honoured to have such a neat, bright creature, slightly smaller than a ladybird, hitching a ride on my T. shirt. I didn’t see fly away but I hope it was accepted into a new zooming colony.

The morning after I found a dead cockchafer beetle across the road from Newtown’s night club and made a mental note not to leave lights on and windows open. I can admire the architecture of maybugs when they’re still: huge, domed, shellac wing cases, and the go-faster white pennants which edge their abdomens, but I don’t welcome them hitching a ride. Sometimes, when carrying out a benign eviction, I think they’ve flown off into the night only to get into bed and hear their motors start. They’ve embedded the leaves of their huge antennae into my hair or into a fleece.

Last year I saw them flying by daylight for the first time. At first I thought a magpie was attacking me as it swooped low and brushed my head but its focus was the ginger whir just ahead. The magpie snapped with relish. A few feet away another cockchafer was descending. I expect she was about to lay her eggs in the meadow.

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