When I was in school I remember learning a few things about insects, and, at the time, it had seemed like the curriculum was fairly comprehensive. I learned that insects go from eggs to a larvae to a pupae to nymphs, and then finally reach adulthood. And, according to the textbook, they do all this on a little circle with arrows telling them what stage to go to next. It was all very nice and clean and sterile.
Also, somewhere along the way, I was led to believe that because of their exoskeletons, insects were incapable of growing very large. According to charts dealing with volume and exponential growth, I was convinced that insects’ shells would crush under their own weight before they could reach terrifying proportions.
Since moving to the jungle, however, I’ve had some time to think, and it’s occurred to me that most of the noted professors writing science books these days were most likely teenagers in the 60s, and some of them undoubtedly overindulged in hallucinogenic drugs, and that is why what I learned as a child now seems more like the ramblings of a lunatic than a reasonable explanation of the natural world.
So, in an effort to help the next generation of learners, here is my first-hand testimony of what is ACTUALLY true about insects:
1. Insect larvae (or, as they are more commonly known, “gross little maggots”) are the result of combining white flour with tropical heat and humidity. As soon as these two opposing substances are brought into contact with each other, small, wormlike creatures will spontaneously materialize. They are too small to be filtered out with a sifter and too large to be easily ignored while eating. Once created, they live forever. It would seem their sole function is to suck the joy from one of the only foods that can truly bring happiness to expatriates living in the jungle.
2. Gnats are also the product of spontaneous generation, though on a more complex level. When the light particles emitted from a 12 volt bulb collide with the deep, dark void of the nighttime jungle, gnats are released as a sort of biological byproduct of this exchange. Every night I watch as hundreds of these incredibly annoying little anomalies appear from nowhere to squeeze through my window screens unhindered.
As best as I can figure, from the time that I create them with my evening lights to the time that they die is somewhere between 1-6 hours. And, apparently, if you only have six hours left to live, and you’re small enough to fit through my window screens, then the greatest thrill you can ever hope to experience is to fly directly into my shower and drown yourself in one of the tiny droplets of moisture that have been left from my evening shower.
It’s OK if all the good shower droplets have been taken by the hundreds of little friends that came in before you. I’m sure there’s plenty of room in either of our sinks. If not there, then perhaps there’s a glass of water sitting around somewhere you could kill yourself in (ideally, something I’m still using). Or, perhaps you’d rather just join the throngs of under-achievers that daily litter all of our household surfaces each morning, looking like pixie-dust left by a demented little fairy.
3. There are two types of spiders in this world.* You are probably familiar with the first kind. Most people are. This would be the “inconvenient spider.” This is the kind that startles you when you see it hanging over you in the shower or huddled in a corner near your bed. These make you say “Eww.” And then you kill them with whatever mildly solid object you have on hand.
The second type is less common in temperate zones, like the U.S. or Europe. This is the “harbinger of destruction and bringer of woe spider.” When you first see this spider, you usually don’t say anything, because you are too busy trying very hard not to say the worst curse word you know. Usually some sort of epic battle is required to kill one of these. It doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked to build your home, when you find one of these inside of it, you will be instantly tempted to burn it to the ground.
I could write much more on the topic (there is just so much misinformation out there), but I have other things to do right now. Maybe another time. Oh, and by the way, if you’re a homeschooling mom or something, please feel free to use what I’ve written to supplement your child’s science education.
*Yes, I know that scientists say that spiders aren’t technically insects, but who are you going to believe, a glue-sniffing hippie who studied one in a lab or a tribal missionary who has to fight one every morning to get his jar of peanut butter out of the pantry?