Friday, July 13, 2012

The insects of July

hummingbird mothWe’ve been enjoying quiet summer days across the Gers, the heat of late June having subsided into a mix of warm sunny days and short rains to keep everything thriving.

All of my plantings are doing well, with the first sightings of plum, garlic in flower, and the old kitchen potatoes I’d tossed into the terrace planters have now erupted into a mass of green.

In addition to the bumble bees grazing assorted floral delicacies, one of my favourite visitors to the terrace is the humming-bird moth. A few arrive each day to dance through the lavender, its long proboscis reeling in nectar from hundreds of florettes.


Oh that the hummingmoth were the only visitor. I say we’ve been having quiet summer days, and indeed the silence is usually only broken by the sound of my fly swatter. Last week about 10000000000 baby flies were born or blown in to attack the house in a Hitchcockian frenzy.

There was a similarly bad period in late July two years ago when I was living further south in the Haute-Garonne, but my assailants volantes generally ended up on one of the long flypaper tapes suspended from the ceiling of my flat like toxic stalactites. Here the flies ignore or perhaps actually scorn me by frotting against them like cat scratching posts. Even the daddy-long-legs spiders are more efficient at gathering up the slower members of the fly herd  as they migrate across the Serengeti of my kitchen, study and bedroom.

I’m not of those Aussies who has learnt to cope with flies, that crinkle-eyed smile and wave of the hand that is mistaken for friendliness by tourists rather than being a defence against aerial feeders on facial orifices. I hate flies. They even seem to aggravate my allergies when they’re around. For about four days I got little sleep as new squadrons would arrive late at night even with all doors and windows sealed. They disappeared for a couple of days and I thought my sleep deprivation was over…but no self-respecting  mouche domestique works on a weekend, and they were all back first thing on Monday morning.

The only weapon that I can trust is my fly-swatter. I actually have several in my armoury. I started with a few cheap plastic tapettes that are found in most supermarkets. Their swatting surfaces are invariably shaped like a hand, and just as invariably it loses a finger each time I bring it down hard on a table-top, window or back of my head. So I’m left after a few swings with a swatter with a single outstretched index finger that is useless for anything but crudely gesturing at my targets or ironically- and iconically - representing the futility of dueling with such a pathetic instrument.
Trumf, the Swedish swatterHowever on my recent international jaunt I brought back a new swatter from a Swedish supermarket that is superior in every way. Rather than being hatched from a single piece of plastic in some far off Chinese factory farm, this free-range flugsmälla has a sturdy coat-hanger-like handle affixed to a much more pliant grid of plastic.

Indeed the benefits of this construction are so superior to the tapette’s that I feel consumed with the glee of an arms-dealer at a Pentagon sales convention. Firstly it has two flexion points, the first at the grip, and the second at the base of the swat-pad. The increased flex, particularly at the pad allows it to wrap around curved surfaces such as chair legs and window pane dividers. Secondly the metal absorbs the shock of the blow and I don’t get any fragments flying around after delivering a blast of shock and awe to my fridge door.

wasp takes fly, checkmateI’m quite smitten with my smiter, and the carnage of volantes through the house is enough to fill a season of Murder, She Smote. Oops getting carried away there. Speaking of which, about an hour ago I was delivering a rain of flugsmällageddon onto a group of larger flies bothering me on the terrace, when a wasp came down and picked up one of the fallen bottle-green flies like a valkyrie in a high-visibility uniform and carried it up to the edge of the terrace to eat! OK so the valkyrie simile falls over there. Maybe I meant vulture.

Now I just have to deal with the fleas and harvest mites.

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