Things happen quickly in the insect world, dear reader. You have to be ready, you can't be asleep at the wheel. The pendulum swings without a moment's notice, making it nearly impossible to stay abreast of the action...yet I shall try my hardest to keep you with me, finger on the pulse, riding the storm of beetle-keeping together.
It all started yesterday when Izzy called my attention to the fact Tin Lizzie (our female scarab and the most robust of the three) had surfaced and was tootling around the habitat. I was excited to see her, but noticed almost immediately she seemed rather agitated and when she stood on her hind legs, her undercarriage was covered with tiny little pods.
What do I know about such things? Not much. But I guessed they were parasites.
I emailed my insect supplier, cringing to yet again be troubling him for information. He confirmed my worst fear, that the pods were indeed mites, and that they could be suffocating my beetle by covering the air passages of her under thorax. He also explained I could sweep the mites away using an art brush, with the caveat perhaps it wasn't worth doing so if she had resubmerged, thus entailing the risk of disrupting the substrate (and potential egg/larvae situation) if I had to excavate to find her.
Are you with me so far? Good.
Is your pulse racing? Mine, too.
This was late at night, by the way, so I didn't dare follow up his response with a new barrage of questions. One wonders about the etiquette of such situations, but I had the sneaking suspicion my need to know did not trump his need to sleep.
Did I sleep a wink? Hardly. I tossed and turned, determining the very next day I would rectify the situation one way or another.
Unfortunately for Tin Lizzie, I had to attend church in the morning. I had to, dear reader. I happen to be the organist and failing to show for services would result in an entire congregation being forced to sing a cappella, the strains of worship rendered to such unholy discord it could rattle even the most pious at heart.
Upon returning home, the first thing Izzy said as we came through the door was: Tin Lizzie is out again!
Did I stop to say: Oh, give me a minute to change...? Let me get out of my Sunday best...?
Not this farmgirl.
You heard what I said about the pendulum, right? You know how dung beetles are like the captain of the football team, ignoring you one moment then completely disappearing the next? I didn't have time to go to my closet and pick out a mite dusting outfit, dear reader.
No. I needed to act, not think...a skillset I have refined over the years and expect to one day be hired for by some unknown branch of the government.
Let me bring you in on a little gem of information. Mites? Do not brush off easily. They do not take a hint. It's the weirdest thing, but they are very difficult to budge. Still. I budged them. Not an easy thing to do when you're holding a wriggling beetle upside down against her will.
Another skillset I suspect will come in handy some day...don't ask me how.
Afterward, I couldn't shake the premonition the other two beetles were dead. The girls and I decided potential larvae or not, it was better to deal with the beetles we knew we had on hand. So we dumped out the terrarium and Caroline went through the substrate with chopsticks and a drinking straw, looking for anything which might resemble an egg. As far as she could ascertain, the results of the search were negative and I am taking her word for it. She is a darn fine beetle-keeping apprentice to the apprentice.
I found the other two beetles, Angel and Mad Max.
Mad Max was definitely dead. Angel, on the other hand, was very much alive...but covered in mites.
I gently swabbed his body with a Q-tip and some rubbing alcohol, then added him to my tiny mausoleum of curious things.
I could go on at length at how deeply this activity absorbed me today. How seeing the workings of these intricate creatures, both in life and death, fill me with wonder, reverence, a sense of the divine. Since I was a child I've been fascinated by such things. They whisper to my imagination, keep me up at night, and make me feel at home on this strange and beautiful planet.