Monday, April 20, 2009

The Birds and the Bees, and Hellgrammites

Getter Robo Number Three

Well, here it is. The end of a long day, and a short weekend. We got a foretaste of summer today- clear, hot, and hot. The boss called yesterday afternoon to ask if I could do the School by My House today, and I said, "yes". Must be a Molly Bloom thing, or something. The other thing he had was to go over there and check for a swarm of bees. I get all the cool assignments. I went over there, and found the bees. At any rate, I'm glad to be done with the night shift for a while, and working the day shift at an elementary school is eight hours of being busy with small, and mostly enjoyable tasks. The highlights of the day were a dead bird, and the arrival of the bee guy. The bees were starting a hive in one of the sprinkler valve boxes out on the main field. They were going in and out through the little opening in the lid, and there were hundreds of them buzzing around out there. The bee guy came out around ten. He uses a vacuum to gather all the bees. Just sucks them up into a box. He said he takes them to a guy who has bee hives up in Hacienda Heights.

And the dead bird was pretty easy to take care of. I got it with the picker-upper thing, and put it in a bucket. I was taking it out to the dumpster (no, we don't do bird funerals). The principal was coming down the hall, and she stopped, and wanted to see the bird. It made her shudder, and get all creeped out, but she wanted to look. Had to look. Twice. That's a really weird instinct that we all have. We always want to get a closer look at something that gives us the horrors. And I call it an instinct, because everybody seems to do it.

Some years back I was in West Virginia for the summer. I went with a couple of friends to visit a woman who lives on an island in the middle of a river. Getting to her house meant a ten mile bounce, and crawl down a dirt road through the mountains. Cool house, though. Much socialising went on, and we ended up car camping out there rather than risking the dirt road by moonshine.

We made a fire, and one of the guys had a lantern. We hadn't sat there long, when thpthpthpthpsnick! the biggest and most grotesque insect I had ever seen flew into the light, and landed on the nearest tree. Three people ducked, and yelled, "SHIT!" with one voice. Of course, we immediately had to shine the light on the monster, and crowd in to get a better look. The creature was damn near the size of my hand, and it looked like an evil cross between a dragonfly, and a scorpion. It had four paddle like translucent wings, a long neck, a big round head, and a nasty pair of mandibles that could surely draw blood. It clung to the tree for a while before flying away. Everybody ducked when the thing launched from the tree trunk, and we could hear the dry scaly flutter of its four huge wings long after we lost sight of it in the dark outside the campfire. I slept in the car.

The guys I was with were locals, but they had never seen anything like it. I asked around, and one old guy said, "What you saw was a hellgrammite." Well named, I thought. I ran across the term, "hellgrammite" somewhere on the web the other day, and put it into Google. It turns out that a hellgrammite is actually the larvae of the giant bug we saw. As soon as I saw the picture I recognized the monster in the woods. It is called a Dobsonfly. Mostly harmless. (you gotta check out the video)

Anyway. It was a good day, and productive. The forecast for tomorrow is heat, and slack. I won't complain about either.



  1. Yikes - that one would have me both creeped out and running to get a closeup :D

  2. I admire most bugs, but that one is positively evil...nightmare stuff.

    It must be bee/sprinkler season. I had to make about a thousand trips to Home Despot today for sprinkler parts that didn't survive the winter, and on my last trip there, a beekeeper was in the parking lot hypnotizing a hive at the base of a sprinkler valve box with his smoker can. The folks parked next to it couldn't get to their car for all the bees. By the time I came back out with the right part, he was done.

    He wasn't wearing any kind of protection either. Cool dude.

  3. We call them jar flies -- I have no idea why -- they're as big as a jar?

    That is funny that we have that revulsion-attraction, or that we are fascinated by the revolting. And it has both beneficial and detrimental elements in it. If we flee mindlessly from horror we may fail to learn valuable lessons, and we are unable to take advantage of opportunities. On the other hand, we can become too fascinated so that it becomes a kind of perverse pleasure.