Thursday, 9 December 2010

Popcorn! (WARNING: This is NOT about food)

Anyone living in South Eastern Australia has probably heard a great deal about the massive locust plague that's supposed to eat all our crops and wreak havoc.

Well, I'm pretty sure that the heavy rain we've been getting has done more damage to the crops than the locusts have (so far - they're predicting 2 or 3 generations to breed this summer), but they are everywhere.

This is one of the little buggers I have waiting for me when I get home to the caravan park in Barham (yes, Nessie is technically trailer trash at the moment. Well, cabin trash, anyhow!). Yesterday when I checked in to my usual cabin, I had to remove about fifteen of them before I was satisfied that none would flit about and freak me out in my sleep. Luckily they're fairly sluggish and you can catch them with one hand while you're chatting on the phone, but every so often you get one that demands your full attention, otherwise you'd be chasing it around in circles all day.

Anyway, I decided to write about them because today as I walked across the grass on my way to get lunch, clouds and clouds of them rose up around me. I was exceptionally glad that I had chosen to wear my sunglasses down the street, because otherwise one of them would have flown directly into my eye. And the first person I thought of was my friend Kirsti, because I wondered whether her dislike for butterflies (quite a common dislike, as it turns out) translated into a more generalised fear of flying bugs, or if it was just butterflies that gave her the heebie jeebies.

So I'm not sure whether this meandering entry will give bug-hatin' people the heebie jeebies or whether they would make them jump up out of their chair and dance a bloodthirsty little "HAH! They got what was coming to them!" kind of dance. Who knows?! Who cares?!

The other day when I started my drive home to Melbourne, I had the window down a smidge to let some cool air in before I turned the air con on, and one flew straight into my face. I brushed it off, and it ran down the back of my neck. I pulled it out of my shirt and tried to throw it out the window, but it had other ideas. So I had company most of the way back to Melbourne. I finally got him (her? How does one tell?) out via a tricky maneuovre involving having cruise control on, opening the window, very slowly raising my right knee to the level of the window and brushing it out.

Safety first!

(Best I don't tell you about the time I did a full change of clothing with the cruise control on, then...)

(Actually, I could argue that my locust removal technique was the safer option, because he (she?) was really distracting me!)

(Anyway.)

I haven't seen the massive swarms that were heard about on the news, and I'm ever so slightly disappointed by that. Anyone who knows me knows that I like freaky nature stuff! For whatever reason, I've missed them. I must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I've seen them in huge numbers on the ground, before they're mature enough to fly, and the more mature ones just veging out on concrete, grass, wherever. It crosses my mind that they're old and dying, because they're not particularly active.

And I've seen them sitting there on the road or on the forest tracks, being run over. I think they like the heat of the exposed surfaces or something, because apparently the swarms follow roads. Running over them was when I discovered that they sound like popcorn, and you know what? It's not just when you run over them. It's also when you run into them, or, when they run into you. As I sit here, I hear the occasional pinging - much like the sound of a kernel of popcorn exploding in a saucepan - of a locust flying into the side of the cabin. Sometimes they sit on the concrete outside, waiting, and sometimes they sit on your windows. If you were the sort of person who got the heebie jeebies from bugs, this picture might freak you out. It's like it's casing the joint, looking for a way in. It's only a matter of time before it evolves opposable thumbs and realises that it can come in via the door while you are sleeping... MWOARHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!

Ahem.

So, I return to the popcorn.

The other Friday as I drove back to Melbourne, I drove through several biggish swarms of them (although I assume they weren't as bad as the clouds that are supposed to impede your vision and make you pull over. These only partly obstructed my vision, so I kept on truckin'). At first I counted how many I had hit, but by the time I got to a couple of hundred popcorn pops I realised that I really was doing my bit for agriculture and possibly also for environmental conservation.

They coated my headlights.

They smeared my windows. This particular streak is from just one solitary locust that exploded down the side of my car just after I left Cohuna. I remember it well because I saw it happen and was amazed that so much goop came out of one bug.

(I assume that, like cockroaches, locusts are mainly fat on the inside, which is why it's so hard to get your windscreen clean with just water and wiper blades)

They also get into your engine bay, and if you're not careful, I'm fairly certain they could clog up your intercooler. That's why you see a lot of people driving around with shadecloth on the fronts of their cars.

But they don't just get into your engine bay - they REALLY get into your engine bay. They get jammed in all sorts of corners. Like this one. This fella looks a little bit like he climbed in here on purpose and is just chilling out, don'tcha think?


Anyway, just thought I'd share. I like bugs! Even dead ones!

Meanwhile, the River Murray continues to rise. Apparently there's a fair to better than average chance that we'll have a 1-in-100-year flood (you know, the maximum flood event that modern infrastructure is generally built to take on) within the next week. Our office Christmas party - which was supposed to be on a paddlesteamer on the Murray - has been moved to dry land, because it didn't seem all that smart to have most of the state's senior management on the same boat in the middle of a river in flood!

But I find it amusing that on the day that the chairman of the Murray Darling Basin Authority tendered his resignation, allegedly over tensions associated with water allocations, the river is little more than half a metre from topping over into the caravan park where I am staying.

I know that was a rambling and pointless and somewhat less than entertaining post, but I felt like writing tonight, and wanted to get back into practice. So sue me!

(Please don't sue me. It's Christmas!)

2 comments:

  1. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeuw, locusts... And yes, it extends to all flying bugs *shudder* Except for ladybugs. I can cope with those!! Incidentally, our nation's backwater is FILLED with butterflies at the moment. Horrible little fuckers...

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  2. I love your bug stories and am so glad sometimes that I'm not you :)
    Great to see you writing again, keeps me entertained at work.

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