This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.
On the sleeping porch of grandparents’ farm house on the Eastern Shore, my grandfather hung a large model of a mosquito. This was emblematic of his dark sense of humor. Because, dang, if every summer I didn’t get bitten by one hundred billion mosquitoes.
I’d jump into the water to escape them and be stung by the ubiquitous stinging nettles. Weren’t Chesapeake summers fun? At the end of the day, I’d have itched the skin off my ankles from the mosquitoes and I’d have angry red welts on my back from the sea nettles. Animals without skeletons could really pack a wallop.
But the next day I’d be right back outside, ready to face nature again. I was a little nature nerd and despite the mosquitoes and the nettles, I couldn’t get enough of beach combing, and fishing, swimming and salt marsh exploring. There were treasures everywhere, or so I thought, when I was eleven.
Actually, I still think so. There are going to be ‘super moons’ this weekend. I’m a big nature nerd in my 40s, peering into birds’ nests, and totally embarrassing my kids when they’re playing with their friends and I yell, “Groundhog babies, 12 o’clock! Who has binoculars?”
So after a recent rainstorm when I happened to notice mosquito larvae wriggling in standing water in the flowerpots and I said to my kids, “Gather! Observe!” And they were like, “Oh no, Mom, not again. Do we have to? What is it this time?” And I said, “Mosquito larvae!” And they were like, “The word ‘larvae’ is gross. We’re going back to playing Lord Business’s Evil Lair Legos.”
I spluttered, “Those plastic bricks are going to end up in the Giant Ocean Garbage Patch.”
Come on, isn’t it cool that mosquito larvae move by propulsion through their mouth brushes!?! What a wonderful world we live in if there is such as thing as a “mouth brush,” right? They breathe through spiracles located on their eighth abdominal segment! They feed on algae and microbes in the water’s surface layer! Awesome. Who’s with me?
“No, Mom,” my son said. “Mosquitoes are blood sucking vectors of disease.”
I was annoyed, but proud; he knew the word vector. And I don’t think it was just because of the movie Despicable Me.
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