Monday, 4 August 2008

Meet Fred...

Fred is a new friend of mine, well met while outside reading and relaxing in my beloved hammock. He's not a big guy, but he's brutal. He makes me look positively gentle. And while I was really escaping society and taking a break from the human race (which was a wasted effort, since Luis' father came out just to say "hi" - in his long, round-about, endless way), Fred wasn't really intruding on that, or bringing society to my back yard, but really made a good metahpor of it, none-the-less.

Fred is an insect.

I don't know what kind. He originally alighted on my leg, and I immediately but cautiously shooed him off, thinking that he is not harmless and would possible sting or bite me. I needn't have worried but sometimes you just can't tell. There was no mistaking his presence, though, as he is close to an inch long and looks big, bad and equipped! His ass-end is this long, mean looking stinging thing.

Fred moved but just to the ropes, and then to the end of the hammock. As I read, I kept a wary eye on him, as well, suspecting a potential threat to my well-being. Fred really wasn't interested in me as much as what I might be able to do for him. I have to say, he's welcome back at any time!

He mostly kept a low profile, but he'd once in while suddenly wizz into the air, then land again, usually nearby, but not so close as to be threatening. I allowed him to be within easy reach, but not too easy - if he was a few inches from an extremity, I'd lightly tap the padding with my foot, not too close to him and he'd move. So we reached a pretty fast understanding of the boundaries.

I lost interest in Fred for my book more and more as it became apparent that I was not actually appealing in a meal-type way and that he really did not bear me any harm. But at one point I did look to see what he was up to and if he was still nearby and wow... he was indeed.

He was within reach and had something in front of him. So I leaned over, not fast but not agonisingly slowly, either, and saw that he had a fly! A rather sizeable one, but at 7/8 of an inch, Fred's no lightweight, either. And what was he doing to said fly?

Sucking it down like a malted!

Now, I am not unaware of how insects get their meals, and I definitely know how spider operate. I may not be unafraid of them, but I do appreciate what they do and even how they do it, strange as that may sound. And I know that mosquitos consider us and other animals the bar. I won't miss too many flies - we have an overabundance of them, and once again, while I understand their role in things (much like vultures, as the sanitation engineers of the animal kingdom), I don't particularly like them.

I couldn't tear my eyes away. It really didn't look like much, to be sure, just Fred sitting there very still holding a large, completely still fly in his front legs, sucking the juices out. Earlier he'd been busily cleaning his wings and that was something to watch as well. Fred was quite meticulous and cleaned every little part carefully. He was a tidy eater, too.

When I got lower and on a more eye-to-eye level with Fred, I could see his underside, pulsating fast. Ah-ha. The rest of him might have been still, but the "swallowing" or ingesting was the only movement, a frenetic hurry-and-eat kind of thing, before a bird or something he would consider predatory got him. It was fascinating. And as I watched him making quick work of that hapless and now dead fly, his back end, which had earlier looked like some enormously long stinger, had begun to fill out with the latest meal.
By the time he'd been working on this one and had been hanging out with me more than an hour, he'd already had two other smaller flies. And I know the carcasses weren't here before - I take the padding on the hammock in when I'm done hanging out.

Well, the next time I see Fred, or one of his ilk, I won't worry about what he might do to me. I just happened to attract his next meal. I was as enlightened as he was weighed down by the end of the experience.

Nature in action. Pretty amazing.

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