Even as a very young child, I have always been attracted to the ‘creepy crawlies’ of Nature. Snakes, spiders, insects, invertebrates…whatever most people had nightmares about, I was usually out catching them with my faithful bug net.
I think about my elementary school playground teacher, Mrs. Brown. Poor Mrs. Brown. Mrs. Brown probably had some sort of insect phobia (unbeknownst to me) and I was always trying to hand Mrs. Brown all sorts of insects in the schoolyard. “But, Mrs. Brown, they won’t hurt you!”, I would plead. She would graciously turn down my tent caterpillar, grasshopper, etc. I am not sure if she ever did eventually hold any of my prized finds. Anyway, Mrs. Brown was in the same Sunday school class as my Mamaw and would always tell her how I was forever trying and trying to get her to hold one of my critters and how I would chase boys with worms.
Anyway, I am proud to say that my own little ones are fairly fearless around invertebrates, and little Zoe carried around a poor tent caterpillar for days, calling it, “my little friend”. Tent caterpillars, though somewhat destructive to some trees, have always intrigued me. Honestly, they look like a crawling Oriental rug. Their patterns are so complex and beautiful. Here is one of Zoe’s ‘little friends’:
Of course, these little guys do not possess stinging hairs, however many caterpillars DO and some are extremely painful, so be sure you know what you’re picking up! Here is another little guy I found on one of our gates the other day.
Generally, the more colorful the caterpillar, the best it is to NOT TOUCH. Not always true, though, as in the case of the potentially dangerous Puss caterpillar , which is what your grandparents call an ‘asp’. I remember Mamaw nearly having a heart attack when I found a Wooly Bear larvae one day beside her house. “Asp! Asp! You stay away from that!” as my Papaw ground the poor little Wooly Bear into oblivion. Naturally, I had to run into the house and grab my favorite book, my Reader’s Digest North American Wildlife identification book, only to discover that Wooly Bears are completely harmless. Oh well. You will often see Wooly Bears crossing the road in the fall.
Anyway, here is a neat little spider I found today, hanging out on my dill:
They may be creepy and crawly, but they all really do serve a purpose! Well, maybe except cockroaches. I can do without the cockroaches! But, seriously, I don’t use pesticides for the simple fact that they indiscriminately kill bugs, whether they are ‘pests’ or not. When you kill one link in the chain of life, the chain can’t go on.