Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Yoga for bugs.

My verandah seems to be very popular with the stick insect community. Couldn't help but notice this lass doing a headstand;






When I checked on her the next day she was practicing more advanced poses in her yoga routine. This position doesn't look very comfortable to me; 





Not from this angle either;





Or this one;





Rest assured I kept a close eye on her to make sure she didn't venture into the foot traffic area. Luckily the birds didn't notice her yogic stretches. On the third day I was relieved to see she had moved into a more spine friendly position;






And on the fourth day she did the upside down sticky thing that they do so well;







Sunday, September 1, 2013

Climbing the walls.






I'm used to seeing bugs in strange places. All the same, I would've liked to have perused a copy of this sticky's itinerary. Where was he heading? Other than up the wall... Was he planning to go around the bend too? He's right beside my front door, so maybe he just stopped by to say hello...

His side profile is also quite fetching;






That little dark spot on the wall to his right is a moth. Maybe they made the trip together, an insect bonding thing. Or a competition...

Just to give you an idea of how far up the wall Mr Sticky and his winged companion were;






The light is just above my head, so it's quite an epic journey for a bug.

Later on that day, the sun offered another photo opportunity--a bug and his shadow! Yay! 

Btw, that's a bit of garden debris attached to his bottom, just in case you were wondering. It could, of course, also be the insect equivalent of a fashion accessory;






Once again, my subject showed how versatile a bug can be when a photo opportunity presents itself;






Work that camera, sticky;






I was faced with the familiar dilemma I experience whenever I see a bug far from their natural habitat...do I intervene? Provide some assistance? 

I've seen praying mantises climb the walls, presumably to lay eggs, but I do believe this sticky is a boy...and I was concerned about where he might end up, like underfoot. (Don't worry, I wrote myself a note--on a sticky of the other kind, actually--to remind myself to check for wayward stickys before setting foot outside...)

He stayed in this spot for two days, and then, sure enough, my safety concerns were realised when I opened the door the next morning and found him sitting on the actual doorstep. As much as I like to be greeted first thing by an adorable bug, nevertheless, intervention was most definitely required.

I hope sticky approved of the flax bush I put him on...


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Raspberry maiden.


Dishes are not my idea of fun...unless while doing them I glance out my window and spy an exquisite creature like this lass. Perfect excuse to swap the dishcloth for an image capturing device instead, of course. How could I resist.

She--assuming I have made an accurate gender diagnosis--is dangling from a raspberry cane, seemingly effortlessly. I don't think I could dangle like that for very long, if at all. 






In fact, I'm going to rebel against the positive thinking brigade and propose that we should focus more on the things we can't do. And celebrate these things, and the creatures who can do them. In the interests of keeping our egos in check. 

Your challenge, should you accept it, is to spend the following week completing this sentence;

I can't ______ like a _______.

But back to more important things, like clever bugs...

This lass did have an admirer--other than me--a much smaller sticky lurking on an adjacent stem who I assume was of the male persuasion. Talk about a cute couple. Just watch out for those prickles, boy sticky. Not only the ones on the raspberry cane.

 Let's admire her spiny bits close up;






And here's another shot of her doing something that I can't, something remarkable;






Oh Sticky, you're-so-fine, you're-so-fine-you-blow-my-mind, Stick-y! Stick-y!


Monday, July 1, 2013

Laughing out loud.

A good night's sleep is not a concept I am familiar with. I struggle to get to sleep, and it's a mission to stay in The Land of Nod too. There's always something that wakes me up.

It might be the wind, or the rain, or their combined effort. Sometimes it's the sounds of suburbia. Other times it's the electricity meter ticking over. That really gets on my wick.

Then there's the overly dramatic double clunk my fridge makes to alert anyone within earshot that it has cooled itself down sufficiently for the time being. What a clever fridge you are.

Last but not least--as if I really need to say this out loud--there are the convoluted inner workings of my own muddled mind. I'm always finding more rabbit holes to fall into in the wee small hours. My Grandad's nickname for me was Alice, would you believe.




I'm pleased to announce that a new sleep deprivation technique has emerged. My subconscious--bless it--finds something in my inner realm so amusing, that laughter ensues. Not just a minor giggle, but a full on laughing fit.

But it's not just a hysterical session in my dreams, it bleeds into the real(ish) world. I laugh myself awake. Intriguing. It appears to be quite hard, or possibly impossible, to laugh and stay asleep at the same time. Kinda like sneezing and keeping your eyes open, I guess.

It's not just annoying because I really need to maximise my sleep molecules, but also because my subconscious has more than once refused to share the joke. Pretty damn rude of it, if you ask me. While onlookers often have no idea why I'm laughing, I usually do. I think it's important to keep oneself in the loop about these things.




I do remember one mischievous morsel from my smorgasbord of dreams though. I thought I'd share it with you today, in case it makes you laugh too.

I was trying to find somewhere else to live during my waking moments, so my subconscious put its own spin on this storyline.

In my dream I went to check out a place by the ocean. Things were looking promising. The flat was nice. The waves were mesmerising. The landlord seemed like a decent chap. Not shifty. Not sleazy. I saw no hint of disapproval in his face. I got my hopes up. I thought I had found my new abode. 




I was following the guy down the hallway. Polite conversation was present. A couple of steps, mid hallway, were present as well. When I reached them, I took the opportunity to bend down and tie my shoelace. At that precise moment the landlord turned around to say something, stepping back towards me as he did so.

I head-butted him in the crotch.

Mortified, I fell down in a disheveled heap on the steps, laughing uncontrollably. He lurched off into an adjacent room, shutting the door behind him. I could hear him sniggering away in the background, which made me laugh even more. So much in fact, that I laughed myself awake.

It's difficult not to choke while laughing when you're lying down, so I had to put myself into the recovery position until the gigglefest was over.




I'm happy to acknowledge that waking up laughing isn't so bad. It's a jovial way to start the day. Unless the day hasn't actually begun because it's still only 5am... I didn't manage to get back to sleep. Action replay issues.

It's by far the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to me--in a dream. At least, I think it is. My subconscious might know more about that than I do. Insider information, so to speak.

I didn't get that flat, obviously. I'm house hunting again though, so will keep a look out for any nice rentals by the ocean. And a look out for steps too, of course. Might wear shoes without laces, just to be on the safe side...




Saturday, June 1, 2013

Waiting for the worms...

...is a phrase that has a whole new meaning for me now. A few years back I saw a doco about research into the ability of certain parasites to help those with chronic allergies. The little critters release chemicals that suppress the immune system.

Not for altruistic purposes, obviously. They are called parasites for a reason. They want to hide inside you, and do sneaky blood sucking things without your body knowing what mischief they are making.

Sounds a bit icky, doesn't it. I think the activities and agendas of internal parasites are enough to make most people squirm (alert: this post is gonna get a whole lot worse from this point forward--painful puns and appalling attempts at alliteration abound), but researchers believe that infection with Necator americanus, a.k.a. the humble hookworm, can be an advantage for atopic folk.




Being someone who adores nature, but is highly allergic to most of its offerings, I'm game/desperate enough to give it a go. A sneezeless spring sounds surreal. Imagine how many more bug photos I could take if I didn't have to keep putting my camera down to blow my nose. Kinda hard to even just hold the camera still when a nasal convulsion is pending. My camera does not appear to be waterproof.

In summary, I want to get my hooks into some worms, so they can get their hooks into me.

Not as easy as it sounds, however. My cynical jaded self assures me that parasites are abundant in this world, but I've been told that the species I require is rare this far south. Too cold for them. Typical.

I have made inquiries further up country, but no luck there. The conversation I had with one laboratory terminated abruptly as soon as the question, "why do you want to buy worm eggs?" surfaced. Oh well.




Sourcing the wrigglers myself from overseas, field trip style, like this guy did, doesn't look very promising either. Air fares to Africa are not cheap. And my passport expired ages ago.

I also suspect that getting back into the country with my cargo could prove challenging. If I had one of my laughing fits while waiting in the queue at customs, how suspicious would that make me look. I may be instructed to step aside--and share the joke.

As aforementioned, I don't need a reason to giggle, not a legitimate one at least. The jet lag alone would be enough to set me off. I'm not sure the customs officers would understand this personality quirk.

If they asked me if I was concealing anything internally I would probably hesitate to say no, not because I'm a drug smuggler (because I'm not), but because I'm unsure if one has to declare intestinal parasites. Hookworms are technically a living organism, a foreign one, and our bio security laws are quite strict, with good reason. Economy dependent on agriculture and all that.

They might request that I state the purpose of my trip to Africa. Not hard to imagine the looks on their faces. And if I admitted beforehand on the declaration form that I had some worms with me, they might want to know which bag they are in...

But of course, I would be too busy laughing to form coherent sentences anyway...




I have doubts about the postal service offering a cheaper/safer alternative. Those bio security laws again. No doubt they forbid the direct importation of parasites. And of course, I would have to find an international worm dealer first.

I guess that leaves only one option--harvest some homegrown ones. I shall have to relocate to the other end of the country, preferably to an abode that is near a park, so I can spy on doggies out for walkies. Snoop for poop to scoop.

There might be repercussions, of course, if someone reports my suspicious/weird behaviour. Would the authorities believe my reason for collecting dog doo? Or would they assume I was planning to launch turds at someone?

I can't help but wonder if uplifting poo is one of those grey areas--legally speaking, I mean. Allow me to explain myself...

If I put my rubbish out on rubbish day, it's because it's crap I want to get rid of, but if someone other than the rubbish peeps came and took it away, like a stalker, or a private investigator, then I would not be impressed.

Some dog masters might feel the same, especially if they knew why I wanted it. They might expect remuneration. I may have to pay for poo. 

I confess I find that mildly amusing. I can see the headlines already; "feces theft sparks shit storm," or "stool stealer in deep doo doo."

And of course, it's possible the dogs themselves may object to me coveting their turds. I probably wouldn't stalk pit bulls. Or Pomeranians.

There would be technical issues to consider as well. No doubt costly ones. I'd need a microscope and some textbooks with very accurate pictures of Necator americanus. Performing a positive ID would be paramount.

I'd also need gloves, tweezers and preferably a gas mask... and a flat with a private courtyard where the neighbours can't see--or smell--what I'm doing. One with a bit of soil where I can dig a hole to...you know...bury the bits I don't want to keep...

Uh oh. Getting complicated, again, isn't it...




It's not just the potential health benefits that intrigue me. If everything went according to plan, the worms could generate an income for their host. All I'd have to do is keep harvesting their offspring. I just wouldn't need to forage through dog doo anymore, if you get my drift...

Not  a pleasant process admittedly, but hey, if it helped my allergic disposition then I would want to share the benefits, spread the word...and spread the worms...

And if we put the ick factor aside for a moment, it is the perfect cottage industry, really. Low overheads. No "product" storage costs. Work from home. Portable manufacturing plant/incubator that doesn't need to be plugged into anything (apart from the internet for checking emails and blog stats every now and then.)

Self-sufficient livestock/employees too, very little husbandry required. No need for training programmes either. Their job description is inbuilt. They just do what comes naturally. And I doubt they need sick days. Not sure what the ACC levies would be like...

Sounds suspiciously symbiotic to me.

Plus I like the idea of calling myself a worm farmer. Intensive farming practices are usually incompatible with my world view, but this is one instance where I think it would be okay. Hookworms thrive in a small confined environment. Sunlight is not their friend.

Would make an interesting conversation starter when that, "And what do you do?" question surfaces. Guess it could be a conversation killer also, depending on the disposition of the person doing the asking.




Oh wait...a name for my new enterprise just popped into my head--Book-a-worm.com. I wonder if that url is already taken... I could put a flyer promoting my ebooks in with each egg order, letting my customers know that I'm not just a farmer, but a writer as well......I do like word play...

Guess I'd have to actually publish some of my books first though...darn...I guess I could get busy with that while I'm...you know...waiting for the worms...

I reckon worm farming has the added bonus of also being a patriotic thing to do. Agriculture is our main industry here in little ole NZ. I'd like to do my bit for the economy.

Who knows, maybe in the future instead of being renowned for our surplus of sheep, people will say, "oh yeah, NZ...that's the little country that's crawling with parasites." There's more to us than sheeps, peeps.




If you're wondering why in a post about worms, there are only photos of plants and bugs that are not worms, it's because I don't have any pictures of wrigglers to show you. Yet. And I thought that if talk of worms makes you squirm, you could just ignore my waffle and look at the pictures instead.

Okay, so I must remind myself that parasites are no laughing matter. They're a major health issue for many people around the world. Let's not pretend otherwise.

Some schools of thought suggest that worms make allergy problems worse. Once upon a time I did look into doing a cleanse of the herbal variety, as you do, in case any little lurkers were residing within.

This lead to a very uncomfortable conversation with a woman in a health food shop. I wanted to understand how the concoction she recommended actually worked. She said it didn't kill the worms, it just made them sick...so they would want to leave...kinda like giving them a hangover...

An awkward silence followed.

I wanted soooo much to ask her to elaborate, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I couldn't transform my disturbing thoughts into words. The look on her face, and the carefully positioned pauses in her sentence, clearly indicated that she didn't want me to ask...




I didn't go ahead with the cleanse, btw. Those unanswered questions still bother me though. You don't mind if I them ask out loud, here, in the privacy of my own blog, do you? Be honest with yourself, you need clarification too, don't you...

We know the herbs make the woozy worms want out...but...well...we need a little bit more information than that...like, you know, when....as in, when do they exit the building? When you are ready to open the gates, so to speak...or do they run to their own schedule? Taking advantage of that element of surprise?

Not that worms exactly run, of course, I guess it would be more of a wriggle...which sounds even worse, doesn't it...




I'm afraid I have a thirst for even more details. Do they evacuate one by one, each worm adopting the guise of the lone prisoner who burrows to freedom through the prison sewers, (oh I sooo love that movie, although I may have just permanently soiled my memory of it, oh dear), or is it more the shit hitting the fan scenario, the equivalent of a prison riot, where the rebels use brute force and homemade weapons to break through the barricades?

Are these metaphors working for you? Have I gone too far?

Would you believe it's actually against my religion to resort to toilet humour. Thou shalt not make poo jokes. What have I done... I must repent... If only a wormhole would open up right about now so I could travel back in time and resist the temptation to hit the publish button...


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Flying teddy bears.


Someone once said to me that bumble bees are like flying teddy bears. How apt is that. They're cute, cuddly, and airborne, and according to the scientists, they shouldn't be able to even leave the ground. The miracle of improbable flight.






Okay...so now I'm getting an image in my head of real teddy bears, flying. They're wearing goggles and helmets, and little backpacks presumably full of teddy bear necessities, just in case you were wondering.

They haven't actually left the ground yet though, because they're firing up the gas in the teddy bear sized hot air balloon that's parked outside my front door. It takes time to inflate those things. Has to be done properly.

Two of them are deep in discussion about where in the basket the picnic hamper should go. It does look quite heavy. No doubt laden with teddy bear treats. Makes sense to do the maths. Balloons are a bit of a balancing act. Don't want any teddys overboard, or flattened by bulk kitchen utensils, because of a miscalculation. That would be...un-bear-able...

Uh oh...one of the teddys has just been plucked from my verandah by a passing hawk! Eek! He's waving though, which I will assume is a good sign. Must be a glass-half-full kind of chap. That's the spirit. Think of it as an adventure. A bird's eye view, almost, of the spectacular scenery. Up until the moment when you are dropped into the nest...or the ocean...

I can take comfort in the knowledge that the hawk isn't planning to harvest his flesh since he isn't a real boy, but having said that, I guess the stuffing in a teddy would make a nest quite...erm...well...nesty...

Let's just hope the hawk has kleptomaniac tendencies and an empty nest furnished with an extensive--intact--soft toy collection. If only I had a pair of binoculars to monitor the bear's progress... Hang in there, teddy...

Anyway...back to bumbles... It hasn't escaped my attention that they really know how to colour coordinate themselves. They look good with any shade of flower. Who would've thought yellow and black stripes would be so versatile. I don't think I could pull it off. Don't have the right skin tone. Sigh.

Looking pretty in pink;






And pretty in the pink;






Mellow in yellow;






A delight in white;






Oops, apologies, bumble, didn't mean to intrude. As you were;






I know we've already admired the bumbles amidst the globe artichokes before, but I just can't resist slotting another picky into this post as well. The way this bumble is sticking out his back legs just cracks me up every time I look at it. 

Perfection in purple;






As you may have noticed by now, none of these "teddy bears" are actually flying, but their locations clearly hint at aeronautical activity.

I had to perform an emergency bumble rescue recently when I spotted one head-butting a window...on the fourth floor of an inner city building. What he was doing up there, other than panicking, I do not know. It's not like there were any flowers up at that level. No wonder they tire themselves out.

This high flyer needed a rest from his globe exploration. Serene in green;



 



 And looking seriously cuddly. Very teddy bearish, imo;






Speaking of rescues...I had to perform another intervention last week. I went to fill up the bird feeder--a.k.a. a  jar lid--on my verandah, and discovered a bumble huddled in it. I gasped at first because I assumed he'd been pecked to bits, but I'm relieved to say he had no obvious injuries.

Not a very smart place to catch forty winks, of course. I don't know if birds eat bees, and I'm not sure I want to know. I expect they do.

I relocated teddy bear features to a nearby cornflower. He went right back to work, but his burst of energy didn't last very long. Another nap was called for. Somewhat safer place to take one, me thinks. Doubt the hawks would spy you there, bumble. A nosy parker like myself, on the other hand;






Ya know, despite my "incompatible with the colour yellow" status, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of dressing up in a bumble costume anyway. Just for the hell of it.

Obviously people would think I'm a freak, wearing a bug outfit at my age. If I was five I'm sure they'd smile. They'd probably smile now that I am not five, but their grin would have a different meaning. But hey, it would be naive to think that people don't already consider me a freak. Gotta be realistic about these things.

I might get away with the transformation the first time. I imagine there would be a few polite, possibly even jovial inquiries as to whether I'm attending a fancy dress party, or a school fair, or some other festivity where it is socially acceptable to adopt a dress code outside of the norm.

But when I reveal that my choice of clothing is not prompted by a special occasion, just a desire to honour the humble bumble, I reckon that's when the smiles might turn to sniggers. Or grimaces.

So bee it. 

The important thing is that dressing in bumble attire, would make me smile. And laugh. And then of course, I would fall down because initiating my "flight plan" and laughing would be incompatible. I would be a giggling disheveled stripey heap, cluttering up the footpath.

I should probably consult the DSM first, to make sure that reinventing oneself as an insect isn't one of those diagnostic criteria that invites involuntary commitment to a mental institution. Just to be on the safe side. I reckon I'd bee all right. It's not like I'm planning to sting anyone.






There are also other issues to consider. To be a bee, when you are not a bee, isn't as simple as it sounds. (Why do my ideas always end up so complicated?) I predict that I may have to make my own costume. Doubt you can just buy one off the rack. Unless you are five.

But I reckon I would need two costumes, a spare for when one is in the wash... And possibly another slightly altered outfit if the day wear version doesn't make the transition to sleep wear very well. Depends on what I make the wings out of, I guess.

And I will have to work on my buzzzzzzzz if I'm going to be a credible bumble impersonator. Sound bites are so important these days, aren't they.

Hmmmm...I know...time to face facts... My delicate frame suggests I'd make a more convincing stick insect than a bumble bee. Those super spindly arms. Very stick-like.

But I can live with that. Slightly more challenging costume wise though. I would definitely have to make my own. And my efforts might be too ambiguous. Onlookers might ponder, "why is that woman/freak dressed like a twig?"

Oops. Another elongated post. I have been waffling on again, haven't I...rambling on...or perhaps, bumbling on...

Let's wrap it up with some more pickys. One of my favourite flowers is nigella. To find a nigella bloom accessorized with one of my favourite bugs...ahhhhh...what more could a chick with a camera ask for.

Looking bumbilicious in blue;






From every angle;






Especially from behind;






You adorable little teddy bear, you;








Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Romance isn't dead...

...at least, not in little critter land...

I reckon bugs can teach us a thing or two about the gentle art of wooing. Except perhaps praying mantises...and maybe not those black widow spiders either... Hmmmm....okay... I may have to rethink this hypothesis...let's stick to romance lessons sticky style, shall we? 

I didn't see many stickys over the summer. It has been an unusually hot dry one though, so maybe that's why. I'm pleased to announce that they are now back, on mass, stickys galore! And just as amorous as ever. Good grief.

You could be forgiven for thinking at first glance that there is only one bug in this photo; 






But if you look a little closer;






You will see that there are in fact two stickys, uniting as one;




 

No room for misinterpretation from this angle, which is why censorship is required;






But stickys aren't a love em and leave em, kind of bug. They stick together, in more ways than one. Here they are, post embrace, still embracing;






And I have to include this photo, because the female sticky even took time out from canoodling to wave at the camerawoman!;






But just after the salutation, a gust of wind dislodged the happy couple and they fell off the fern. Not to worry though, they clung to a flax leaf instead, still together. Such devotion. I am in awe. Don't they cast an adorable shadow;






When I checked back later they had gone from shadow dancers, to shade lovers. It was quite a hot day, so a sensible move, imo;






And here they are doing their "we are one" thing again. Ahhhhhh...;