Friday, 8 May 2009

A Friday five on insects or should that be bugs ...

So below is this week's Friday five from Revgalpals and because I am on holiday I can do this early in the day for once. I'm rather inspired that it is about insects. However the linguist in me does note (sorry I must have woken up in a prissy mood!) that the American term bug is not a complete synonym for insect as it includes other creepy crawlies that are not insects.
As I was walking the beach today, I was surprised and delighted to find it swarming with ladybugs. The sweet little red beetles are one of my favorite insects and also my daughter's blogname--though as of this morning she was thinking of changing it to Butterfly. I'll keep you posted.
This got me thinking about spiritual insect trivia: Did you know that medieval mystics and theologians esteemed the bee for its dedicated work and transformation of ordinary ingredients into sweetness? That Spider Woman is an important creator Goddess to many Native American tribes? Or that Francis of Assisi was reminded of Jesus not only by lambs being led to slaughter, but also by worms (think "I am a worm and no man" from the Psalms)-- so he picked them up and took them out of stomping-vulnerable spots?!
In that spirit, this week's Friday Five is a magical mystery tour through God's garden of creepy crawlies!

1. Ladybugs or ladybirds? Pillbugs or roly-polys? Jesus bugs or water skeeters? Any other interesting regional or familial name variations?

When I saw that today's five was about insects the first thing that came to mind were the chocolate May beetles (Maikäfer) that you can find in the shops in Germany at this time of the year - and flying in the silly youtube clip. Not to be confused with Marienkäfer - literally Marybeetles or ladybirds. Then I wondered why are they called ladybirds or beetles of our Lady, this is a gap in my knowledge of trivia that I must fill. So it seems that because ladybirds chomp their way through thousands of aphids and so protect crops peasant farmers saw them as a gift from the Virgin - our lady's beetles. They were also seen as giving protection from witches and the evil eye.
Meanwhile "avoir le cafard" - literally to have the cockroaches - means to have the blues.
I also love the French word libellule for dragonfly and remember learning it at school, it has an interesting etymology too.

2. Stomp on spiders, carry them outside, or peacefully co-exist?
I love spider's webs - though not when tacky and full of house dust. In my more merciful moments I have been known to carry spiders outside or trap them in jars. In our household it would be me who would catch or kill them, my partner is not fond of creepy crawlies but doesn't enjoy the crunchy sound of killing them either.
I'm not so squeamish, must be growing up in the country. When I lived in the south of France our student kitchen had an invasion of cockroaches and I would go in regularly to squash them with the bread knives, it was quite satisfying but didn't have much impact on their numbers!

3. Favorite insect?
Now I understand more about their importance to the whole of life on our planet it has to be the bee. This week I was walking along a path and saw an enormous bumble bee which seemed to be trying to get at the polen in the fallen blossom cases on the path. What fascinated and impressed me was the mini huricane of air its helicopter wings were generating. The tiny blossom cases were literally being lifted off the ground. It made me think about the so-called butterfly effect - the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in South America could create storms on the other side of the world. Watching that energetic bumble bee I could really believe it capable of causing quite a storm.
More seriously though I am planning to put bee and butterfly friendly plants into my new garden.

4. Least favorite?
No contest here. Definitely the mosquito. Not only does it bite and transmit disease it also makes one heck of an irritating noise depriving me of sleep. I am fairly convinced that it is not part of God's good creation.

5. Got any good bug stories to share?

A friend who is a bit of an entomologist went through a phase of mounting a large and a small weevil in tiny museum-like cases. Under the first large one in careful script it would say "a weevil" under the second it would say "the lesser of two weevils". With the same friend and my brother in law I climbed up to my parents loft on my wedding day (in my wedding dress!) to show them the long-eared bats that nest there. The friend however was more interested in the special bat-dung eating beetles he found there!

Bonus question: share a poem, song, quotation, etc. about insects.

This has to be Gerard Manley Hopkins
My good friend Rowenna Reamonn, whose funeral I took nearly seven years ago, made a very beautiful series of prize-winning quilts based on the first line of this poem.
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying, What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.


janetlees said...

Hard to choose a favourtie insect as they are all so amazing - and cover such a huge range. I fell in love with the rather strange mole cricket when I saw one in France when I was a teenager. It's a burrowing underground kind of cricket and looks like a tiny mole. But I also like lacewings.

Processing Counselor said...

Very nicely done! Dragonfly! Wow!

altar ego said...

Great post! Clearly I did not put sufficient thought into my own responses, as I am reminded of the bee. Wonderful etymologies, thank you!

Muthah+ said...

the lesser of two weevils--GROAN!

Love hearing of European insects! Also thanks for background on ladybugs.

Sophia said...

Wow! Gerard Manley Hopkins, that way cool etymology for ladybugs, and the lesser of two weevils. Great play.

Enjoy your holiday!

MaineCelt said...

Yar! What Sophia said! I loved your creative approach to each of the questions, with all sorts of embedded jewels along the way. And, ah, Hopkins...every time I read his poems (and this is one of my favourites) my heart just sings!

Many Thanks!

Barbara B. said...

With the Maikäfer and the Marienkäfer -- I learned a lot with this post!

Bad Alice said...

Eew eew eew - squishing bugs. Aargh. I'd forgotten about that amazing poem. I wish I could see her quilt.

Jan said...

I remember the chocolate bugs my daughter would send me when she lived in Germany. Nice memory.

You put a lot of thought and work into this. Thanks. I love to find new poems (to me).

Hansuli John Gerber said...

Let me add my encounter today not with bugs but with snails in the garden - it was a mild and humid day and I found a beautiful snail hiking up one of the rugged rocks behind the house. In its entire length and full gear - Weinbergschnecke - protected by Swiss law and appreciated on French menu's as Entrée - I took some photos and was surprised at how the snail who quickly became a friend defied my opinion of the slowness of these species. This was the closest encounter, standing out from my almost daily interventions to save one of my friends' cousins from certain death because it has ventured on dry sunny ground with no way back or because it would be trampled on sooner or later.

MumPastor said...

I love the phrase "to have the cockroaches" - I am going to use that one! Great play!

Anonymous said...

That's an important point that you make about bees. The population in the UK (and maybe elsewhere) is dwindling. Worrying thought really.

SingingOwl said...

Yes, the bees are dwindling here in the USA as well. Roaches and mosquitos...yes...surely not part of God's creation. GREAT PLAY!

Jane said...

I watched a tv programme about bees the other day. I hadn't realised that nearly all the honey bees in the US are shipped around on lorries from one crop to another. Autralia is exporting bees to the USA and elsewhere because the bees there are still disease free.
Apparently urban bees in London for instance tend to be doing relatively well perhaps because they feed on a variety of polens and not on mono cultures.