"I know you are a friend," the little voice went on: " a dear friend, and an old friend. And you won't hurt me, though I am an insect."
"What kind of insect?" Alice inquired, a little anxiously. What she really wanted to know was, whether it could sting or not, but she thought this wouldn't be quite a civil question to ask...
--Chapter III, Looking-Glass Insects, from Through the Looking-Glass in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland--
Though the insect pictured above looks a little unfriendly, a "bug" expert at the Shawnee Audubon Society's Insect Awareness & Appreciation Day this past Saturday informed us that it is merely a moth masquerading as a wasp. I wish I could tell you its correct name, but my hands were too busy with the camera and a water bottle to write down any notes.
I love a welcome that includes a picket fence, and we felt welcome indeed to the diverse gathering of insect aficionados. They included university professors, graduate students, ordinary folks like us, children, and even an Illinois Department of Transportation biologist. I am glad to know the highway folks are concerned about the little critters. I wonder if they have ever thought of doing a random dead-bug count on cars as they leave the state. It would be interesting to find out if vehicles like Hummers or Navigators could perform a really useful service like mosquito abatement.
Now this garden looks like an insect paradise, and in fact it was.
We split up into groups of 10 to 15 people and wandered about the property, guided by some of the experts. They were kind enough to scoop up some of the property's diminutive denizens and display them for our inspection. The children were by far the most enthusiastic participants in the bug safari, not afraid at all to take a step into the tall grass or wade into the water to look for unusual specimens.
A shallow pond added a different dimension to the various areas available for insect habitation.
No, the water was definitely not potable, though I am sure it was not as contaminated as many lakes are these days by farm chemicals. This farm property, which has been donated for the Society's use, has not been sprayed or treated for a very long time. You can be sure we practically bathed in insect repellant before we even stepped foot outside of the car. We have soothed the few, itchy chigger bites that have appeared since Saturday with lavender essential oil.
In addition to the little excursions around the property, we were treated to mini-lectures and insect displays brought by various experts and members of the Society.
If there were names posted somewhere for these specimens, I failed to see them.
"What sort of insects do you rejoice in, where you come from?" the Gnat inquired.
"I don't rejoice in insects at all," Alice explained, "because I'm rather afraid of them--at least the large kinds. But I can tell you the names of some of them."
"Of course they answer to their names?" the Gnat remarked carelessly.
"I never knew them to do it."
"What's the use of their having names," the Gnat said, "if they won't answer to them?"
"No use to them," said Alice; "but it's useful to the people that name them, I suppose. If not, why do things have names at all?"
Of course, the first thing to do was to make a grand survey of the country she was going to travel through. "It's something very like learning geography," thought Alice, as she stood on tiptoe in hopes of being able to see a little further.
Several paths mown through the tall grass beckoned to us to follow them, but the wonderful smells of a potluck dinner being set up on long tables behind the barn convinced us to stay nearby.
After a delicious meal, some entertaining insect jokes, a raffle of donated prizes, and some humorous folk music provided by RognboB, we headed to our reserved room at The Mansion in Golconda. We thought it would be a nice place to stay, and it certainly seemed that way at first glance.
The room was spacious, and the bed looked inviting, that is until I pulled back the sheet and found a wolf spider hiding there. You would think I could appreciate it after the kind of day I spent outdoors, but its presence was not at all welcome. Let's just say I dispatched it quickly with a little help from my shoe.
"Better say nothing at all. Language is worth a thousand pounds a word!"
We really should not have been surprised to find a bug or two since the house is an old one, but there seemed to be more than just one or two creeping or flying about the room during the night. The next morning we discovered why they seemed so prevalent. The window behind the bed's headboard had a big hole in the glass which was not covered by anything more than a poorly fitting piece of plastic. That fact explains why it seemed like we were camping outside. The insect noises from outside were quite loud, and there was a dampness in the air even though we could hear the air conditioner running.
The proprietors were nice people, but I don't think we will be staying here again.
Over time, flood waters have carved out a spacious cavern, supposedly used by river pirates from time to time. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the clink of coins and drunken laughter echoing off the cave walls.
At least these days, river workers have cell phones and radios to keep in touch with family and the authorities during the long periods of time they have to be on the water.
I guess Sunday was too muggy for many people to be visiting the park or having a picnic. By noon, we were ready to head back north and take a nap in the air-conditioned apartment.