memory lane: the little naturalist

When growing up, I was fascinated by all kinds of wildlife. I was just as fascinated by insects, spiders, slugs and snails and suchlike as I was with animals and birds. As a little girl, I was utterly fearless when it came to wildlife (although very shy in front of strange people!). I believed all little creatures had the potential of being my friends (and I theirs) if they just had the time to grow accustomed to me.

At the house where I spent the first thirteen years of my life, the garage was sunk into the hill on the side of the road, with a tarmac roof which could be easily sat on, or climbed on, from the garden. (There was, of course, a barrier before the drop on the other side.)

The tarmac would grow warm on sunny days and I would perch or lie on it, and examine the honey bees buzzing around the Cranesbill Geraniums with grew up round the sides. Initially wearing gloves, I would somehow “persuade” the bees to climb onto my fingers. After a while, I grew more confident and took the gloves off, and watched them climb onto my fingertips. No, not once was I stung; though it’s not something I would try now – and I suspect my parents would not have been entirely happy with this activity!

It simply did not occur to me that these creatures would hurt such a friendly little girl as I was! Even when wasps chased me across the school playground, I would be proud of the fact that they preferred me to the others – although this sentiment would change rather drastically in the future. My enthusiastic attitude towards the attention of wasps ended one day, when sitting in the school hall, I suddenly felt an intense stinging pain on the back of my neck. A drowsy wasp must have landed there and, as I shifted my head, felt threatened and stung me. We found it flailing on the floor afterwards. I’m afraid an unprovoked wasp sting rather effected my attitude…

Anyway. Enough about wasps! I would go around the garden collecting slugs, snails, or woodlice (‘chiggy pigs’ as I knew them), giving them leaf matter or roots/wood to eat. I would watch with fascination as pregnant woodlice gave birth to dozens of tiny white miniature selves, turning them upside down (poor things!) to watch the babies moving around in their parent’s ‘tummies’. The naturalist in me, I suppose! I would hope I didn’t poke or prod at them, but I suspect most small children do, and I wasn’t any different.

As for spiders…well there were plenty of spiders in my life, the house being what it was – big brown ones in the bath and sinks were regular, and there were plenty of fascinating garden spiders outside, hanging on their webs. Intrigued by what they would do, I would put a tiny piece of grass in the web, and watch them ‘tidy’ it up and throw it away. I confess I also offered up the occasional woodlouse (!!) to watch the spider wind it up. I found it frustrating that a fly never got caught while I was watching…

At school, a certain group of boys would frequently come up to the girls with cupped hands, saying they were holding a big spider. This would cause some to back off, shrieking, but I and another friend held our ground until they confessed there was no spider. Growing bored of it, I went and found a big, hairy, house spider and walked up to those very same boys with the spider in my cupped hands. Of course, they didn’t believe me for an instant. When I opened my hands, it turned out they could run and scream with the best of them!

As I grew up, childhood courage receded and adult fear crept in…I brace myself at the sight of a wasp and try not to hurtle off until it gives up bothering me. (Do I smell nice to wasps, or something?!) I won’t handle a spider unless I absolutely have to, although if there’s a room full of shrieking adults I will gently pick one up and throw it out the window on their behalf. And daddy long legs (crane flies) are my worst. It’s fine if they are just minding their own business, but if they fly towards me, they cause a great deal of frantic hand flapping and leaping about lest they fly in my face (and hair!).

The child that I was would look on in astonishment at all the fuss – and, I suspect, no small amount of superiority…

Today: 4/10, medium

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15 thoughts on “memory lane: the little naturalist

  1. Interesting – Daddy long legs are what we call a certain type of spider over here, which, while being somewhat large and having quite long legs, is perfectly harmless to humans.Growing up, I was scared to death of stinging insects (even though I was never stung), but I was the type of girl who was always bringing home animals from the creek behind our house. Minnows, crayfish, frogs, a turtle, etc. I found a robin egg on the ground one day and brought it home and tried to keep it warm enough to hatch (of course it didn’t). I’d even love watching the ant colonies in our backyard. I had dreams of being a veterinarian one day, but I volunteered behind-the-scenes at an animal hospital for a couple of summers and quickly gave up that idea when I realized I’d need to cut open pets for surgery. Yikes!Ah, youth. Thanks for jogging my memories, and sharing your own. 🙂

  2. OOh yes, I forgot to mention the ant colonies…I would love watching them busily doing their thing. Would crumble up (dry) cat food for them and watch them gamely carry it away. Whether they used it for food or for building materials, I really don’t know!!Our crane flies are harmless, too (except their larva eats roots of grass in your lawn and plants, we call them Leatherjackets). But they are so gangly and fly so erractically that they can get caught in your hair…I think it’s a UK thing that we call them daddy long legs, some people refer to the spiders like that as well. Apparently Australia, South Africa and NZ also call them daddy long legs- just looked it up!Such confusion!!

  3. You and Abigail were on the same wave length this week! I’ve never been afraid of Daddy long legs because I knew they couldn’t hurt me – and they seemed so delicate. A missionary friend told me that they are the most poisonous spiders, but they don’t have any way to get the poison into you so they’re not dangerous – I wonder if that’s true?Sounds like you had a lot of fun being a kid. I love stories like yours – enjoying the days of summer with the bugs. 🙂

  4. Actually, I am somewhat ashamed of myself for getting in a flap over crane flies…next time I see one I will diligently remain calm. I may even name it Alfred.

  5. Daddy Long legs were usually large, skinny spiders found in our sinks and tubs! My sister loves nature…not me so much, I would rather be in the house with my nose in a book! We had enough insects inside that I didn’t need to explore outside!!!I’ve tried to teach my girls to value life, no matter how invaluable we may think it is. Our rule since they were small has been that we kill the bugs in our house…that is where we live. We DO NOT kill the bugs outside…that is where they live! The exceptions – stinging, flying insects (wasps!) and roaches!!! Anytime, they are free to kill!!!Thanks for sharing!Pamela in TX

  6. That's funny. I used to like bugs when I was little too, but no more! My brother even had a pet snake & I'd let it crawl over me, but now I freak if I see a snake!

  7. I am a “fraidy cat”, I don’t like bugs and spiders. When I was a kid I would pick up a catepillar or a roly poly, but that’s it.But I wasn’t too much afraid of daddy long legs,…or honey bees, because people told me they wouldn’t bother me.I tried to catch butterflies and fireflies, but I wasn’t afraid of them either.Now days I freak out when I see a spider. Especially whe I am driving a car and I see one close by me. I scream amd have to find a quick place to pull over, so that I can kill the spider. My grandkids saw me do that one time when I was driving them somewhere.They laughed at me then, and they still laugh when they think about that time when grandma freaked out over the little spider!

  8. Ah, to be young and fearless again. heehee. 🙂 I was never big on spiders–they’ve always scared me, however I did think daddy long legs were pretty cool. I enjoyed reading about your “adventures”! :)–Abigail

  9. I definitely played with Daddy Long Legs when I was younger, but I don’t think I would play with them today; however, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick one up and carry it out of harms way.

  10. Loved your blog! I caught my nephews pulling the legs off a Daddy Long Legs one day – they wanted to see it spin around!! Boys!! I was much kinder to bugs when I was young

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