When you look at the bright side, you’re acknowledging that there is a dark side at which you are choosing not to gaze. If you think that the darkest hour is before the dawn, you are moving from darkness to light.
~ Srikumar Rao
If you spend a lot of time outdoors walking the same paths repeatedly the way I do, you are likely to notice that nature isn’t all light and beauty. There is a dark side to nature, and sometimes that dark side is seriously creepy.
If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.
Before someone mentions duality, and the nature of duality, I should point out that I don’t usually think in terms of dark and light when it comes to nature. Nature is nature. To use an overused and frequently disliked phrase, it is what it is. Left to its own devices (without interference from we humans), there appears to me to be a balance in nature, including the food chain. However, it’s a human thing to label and use words to describe our experiences and the things we observe in life. It’s how we communicate with each other, and those communications often include judgments of some kind to help us express what we feel as well as what we see. (Can you tell I’ve been reading a book by Alan Watts?)
I take photographs of all sides of nature, but rarely post those involving death or what some might consider the ugly or the dark. People seem to prefer the beautiful side. I get that, especially when it comes to blogging and art. Both art and blogging can be forms of escape, a chance to relax and let the eyes, the mind, and the spirit enjoy something soft and soothing.
So I thought I should warn you that I am going to show you something disturbing. And creepy. Decidedly creepy. One more pretty shot, and then we’ll move on to the macabre.
My work is about the underbelly of the beauty of nature — and the dark side of nature is its indifference. Nature isn’t friendly, nor is it unfriendly — it’s the perfect embodiment of the Other.
~ April Gornik, artist
Have you ever seen a Wheel Bug? It is part of the Assassin Bug family, and it’s a bizarre looking creature. It has a distinctive cog-like feature on its back, and no one is quite sure what the wheel-like structure’s purpose is although general thinking is that it is a way to alert possible predators that it will taste bad if you eat it. Its bite has been described as ten times worse than a bee or wasp sting. After the initial pain, there is numbness for a while. It can take up to two weeks or longer for the bite to heal, and it might do some nasty things before it heals. Best not to mess with a Wheel Bug.
I found a Wheel Bug in the scrounger’s garden yesterday near sunset. She was having her evening meal. I am assuming it is a female based on size. In the bug world, females are often bigger than males, and in the case of the Wheel Bug, this rule applies.
Wheel Bugs are slow moving creatures but as you can see, they are effective at capturing their prey. They have a proboscis with a beak that is used to pierce their prey at some soft spot (they’re not particular about where), and then inserted so it can inject the potential (and probable) meal with its saliva which paralyzes the prey within 15-30 seconds. The saliva also turns the prey’s innards to liquid which the Wheel Bug sucks out. It’s the Wheel Bug’s version of a smoothie.
A couple of years ago, while I was still living in The Bogs (northeast Ohio), I came across a Praying Mantis devouring a Monarch butterfly, and it made me sad and angry until I regained my senses and remembered that it is all part of the circle of life and death and nature. I wouldn’t have been nearly as sad or as angry if the Praying Mantis had been munching on something ugly or creepy such as a Wheel Bug. (I wonder who would win that battle??)
To be honest, I still don’t like to see Monarchs killed and eaten. I wanted to tell the Wheel Bug to pick on some other species because the Monarchs are having enough trouble with survival as it is. I don’t think she (given the size, I think it was a female Wheel Bug) would have given a hoot one way or the other. Food is food.
The Wheel Bug is considered a beneficial insect in that it eats insects we humans consider to be pests (imported cabbage worm, tent caterpillars, and bollworm to name a few). Unfortunately, just like the Praying Mantis, it doesn’t distinguish between pests and other beneficial insects. Food is food. On the plus side for the butterflies and honeybees, Wheel Bug numbers are generally low (certainly not high enough to be truly beneficial in the garden). Many of the hatchlings don’t make it and they have to go through five stages of molting before they reach adulthood. About a third of them make it.
Happily, there were a lot of Monarchs in the garden yesterday. I’ve seen more Monarchs this year than I’ve seen in a long time. I want to hope that means they are making a comeback.
Thanks for coming along on this bizarre ride into the inner workings of the garden. So much has changed in the last few weeks. The hummingbirds left us around the 23rd of September (perhaps to celebrate the equinox elsewhere?), and the migrating birds continue to move in and out. I have seen a pair of Kestrels gliding over the meadows a few days in a row, and the Canada Geese continue to honk out their journey plans as they move overhead at sunset in V formations. It’s an interesting time of year.
Be good, be kind, be loving. Just Be. 🙂
Today’s joys: Early morning in the garden, watching the butterflies wake up; a Mockingbird serenade; dewy grass and morning mist; the changing colors of the season; dancing in the woods.