Boys v Bugs

What are little boys made of? Slugs and snails (and puppy dog’s tails)?

Turns out little girls are made of the same stuff.

When our eldest boy suggested having a ‘Bug Party’ to celebrate his fifth birthday (an age I feel is tinged with magical ‘still on the cusp of innocence’ wonder), we knew that our boys would be: In. Their. Element.

And so we began the preparations. The days in the lead up to the big bug-off meant collecting everything under 5 grams that wiggled in our direction; whether it be peeking out from under our marigold pots or lurking in warm cavities behind the fridge.

Enticing the standard household collection of wrigglers and bouncers was fairly easy. We put weeks of hoarding old jars (intended for my annual winter preserving plunge) to good use and got very busy capturing dingly daddy-long-legs, bush cockroaches (and their not-so-well-liked relatives), creaky crickets, grasshoppers, flies, slaters, beetles and seriously salivating slugs (which I happily extracted from my lettuces).

When it came to the more exotic species, we had to start digging deeper. Thankfully the boys’ grandparents live in what can only be described as a ‘pocket of paradise’, a true rainforest garden. It was there that we uncovered brightly horned beetles that waved their frond-like feelers furiously at us, stick insects with limbs that reached around our hands, and even a threateningly large and curvaceous centipede – a true demon of the garden. Armed with these fantastical specimens, we headed for home and the great museum-like set up that awaited us.

Having a husband that works with animals (and significant experience with spiders in particular) meant that we could take the bugathon just a little step further. In came boxes of maniacal meal worms (that look like the grizzlewhatsits that would dwell in Mr Twit’s beard), along with hoops strung with web to hang in the corners of the room – and yes, with a resident spider dancing in the centre of each.

We drew pictures of wild critters on the table tops, housed the stick insects in large vases of eucalypts and tightly stuck down jar-lids on the less-than-savoury specimens (writing what lurked within on brightly coloured paper glued to their home’s ceiling). To top it off, we recorded a long loop of wondrous bug sounds (easily downloaded from i-tunes) to give the room a certain feeler-ing.

I will never forget the moment that our collection of bugmunchkins were allowed to enter the room, clad in their fizzy feelers and holding their very own magnifying glass. There was a certain creep, creep, creeping sensation as their little feet pattered through the door, big eyes bulging at the great palm-fronded room awash with buzzing, wriggling critters. They plunged their hands into the meal worm bucket, allowed stick insects to crawl over their arms – and some even patted a friendly spider. Punctuated by the odd shriek by one of the big people at the discovery of a web dangling above their head, the bug party was a total buzz.

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