Earwigs By the Book, Part 2
As you may recall from Part 1, I set myself the task of writing an entire blog about earwigs using only the six references in the Eyewitness book, Insects, and earwig minutiae already lodged in the darkest recesses of my brain. No Internet whatsoever! I had two questions: could it be done, and would the results differ significantly from an e-version? Which would be a better model to use to teach writing? There, that’s three questions. We’re off to a great start! I turn to the index, and thus to the first mention of my subject.
Earwigs can fly! I glean this from the Latin name, Dermaptera, "skin wings". This refers to their tissue-thin hind wings, which are kept folded beneath their very short, much tougher front wings.
Here I encounter my first problem: not everything that has wings can fly. Can an earwig? I know I’ve never seen one airborne . . . The only available book that offers to tell me is volume 5 (or possibly 6) of Encyclopaedia Britannica – a daunting prospect if ever I saw one. I yearn for Siri, for the instant access to information she offers. “Can earwigs fly?” I would ask, she would answer yes or no, and just like that, I would know. Oh, the temptation to tap into that infinite ocean of knowledge the Internet offers!
Reluctantly leaving the question of flight unanswered, I turn back to the book. I am relieved to find that earwigs do not in fact crawl down the ear of a sleeping human and take up residence in the brain. Furthermore, earwig mothers are awesome! They dig a small hole for their eggs then stay on guard until the nymphs are hatched. If the eggs are scattered (presumably by some malevolent researcher) she will gather them up and put them back in the hole; when the young nymphs emerge, mama earwig stays with them until they are able to fend for themselves. Get that, Hallmark? You have a new pin-up candidate for Mother's Day cards! Maybe such maternal solicitude accounts for the earwig's evolutionary success story: judging by the fossil record, they have changed little in 35 million years.
They may not care for a sleeper’s ear, but one thing they do like to crawl into is the nasturtium flower. You can tell just by looking at the little pointy bit at the back that it’s an earwig’s Ideal Home. A fact that I chose to ignore when, as a girl of about ten, I spent a significant chunk of my early summer laboriously interweaving sticks to make the framework of a den at the base of the cedar of Lebanon at the bottom of our garden. My plan was to cover the framework with nasturtiums, thus providing myself with a colorful, fragrant getaway in which to while away the lazy days of summer, and quite possibly the occasional night as well. Nourished by the adjacent compost heap, the flowers did their part and grew apace; with mounting excitement I looked forward to the day when I would enjoy my first picnic lunch in my den. What a very "Swallows and Amazons" thing to do, I thought, imagining my eager friends vying to take their turn in my flowery sanctum.
You’ve guessed what comes next: as I took my first bite of whatever succulent treat I’d chosen for my sandwich (quite possibly a Winnie-the-Pooh special, honey and condensed milk – I was ten, after all,) I was puzzled by the sound of raindrops falling in my perfectly dry den. A glance at the ground revealed the awful truth: it was alive with earwigs, plopping gently from the flowers to form a shining, golden-brown carpet.
I high-tailed it out of my labor of love den in less time than it takes to tell, and I never looked back.
So there you have it: blogging without a (n/inter) net! I rather enjoyed it – I’d never have recalled the nasturtium den that wasn’t without ransacking my brain for a story. As for the tantalizing question of whether earwigs fly, I just checked Wikipedia and the answer, as is so often the case, is a resounding . . . yes and no. There are around 1200 species worldwide and some do, some don’t. It would be hard to write an interesting paper about that, I think
As to whether I can write an interesting column without the Internet . . . well,
You Be The Judge. And please, let me know the verdict!