When I saw the ad, I couldn’t resist going to a bug fair. How many times do you get to handle creepy-crawlies? My daughter, Shannon, was game and so were her two children. So off we went to the local college campus to get up close and person with insects. Unfortunately, most turned out to be in specimen jars or photographs, but we did meet an Australia praying mantid. I couldn’t wait to get my hand on, or rather under, it. It was BIG, too; the full length of my hand, and beautiful in a bizarre alien sort of way. I’m sure Aussie Mantid wondered about me, too. What is that big bug-eyed thing staring at me? It’s baring it’s teeth! It’s cackling! Is it going to eat me? Aussie Mantid rocks and sways harder, trying to convince me he’s a stick with a few leaves blowing in the wind and nothing edible. He need not have worried. I wasn’t that hungry!
Shannon by-passes the hissing cockroach. She already had an opportunity to hold one at the Smithsonian and has pictures to prove she didn’t chicken out. My grandson, Brendan, wanted to hold the tarantula, but was told it needs to mature and become comfortable with human contact. I admire her beauty from a distance.
We hot-foot to a display of carnivorous plants and oohh-and-ahhh over the Venus fly-traps. The attendant tells us the plant evolved over millions upon millions of years. Did you know the chemical make-up of the sweet sticky liquid that attracts the fly immediately changes into acid to dissolve and consume it? Wow! I didn’t. But it just begged questions: What evolved first, sweet fluid or acid, and how could the plant survive without both? When, why, and how did the plant develop its taste for insects? And that yawning mouth? How about the speed to close its jaws before the fly struggled free and flew off? What did the plant eat during the millions upon millions of years before all those mini-changes came about?
The attendant knew exactly how to deal with people like me. “Do you want to see it eat?” Of course!! We watch the plant attendant drop a squiggly meal worm into the gaping, red mouth of a fly-trap. The mouth closes coolly like an aristocrat with pursed lips. Chew with your mouth closed. The green lip twitches at the corner and out comes the worm, dripping like a piece of spaghetti. Captured between tweezers again, mealy is dropped into a larger gaping plant mouth. Cheeks bulge and move. Again, the worm writhes its way free. We declare the worm has earned its freedom and move on.
Watching Venus Fly-Trap lose her lunch seems to have reminded us all that it is high time to hunt down and devour our own. In and Out Burger is just down the road.