By NANCY JANE KERN
WE WERE THE FIRST DINERS to arrive at a small restaurant, and as we reached for the entrance door, a strange glittery winged object on the sidewalk caught the eye. It was a very large (4” long) dead insect. This restaurant can have some out of the ordinary edgy décor and amusing artwork, so we wondered if our friend, the chef/owner, was playing a joke on us. She knew we would be the first to arrive by our reservation time. She also knows our interest in nature so this was a logical conclusion.
Not wanting to bring the insect inside, it was placed safely on a window ledge out of the way. Inside we enjoyed our dinners and gazed at the framed art which had very bright acrylic colors, and surreal insect-like nursery rhyme figures. Some looked very similar to our insect hidden outside. The chef was busy, so we decided it was just a bizarre coincidence. Full and happy we carefully retrieved the delicate monster and took it home.
There are well over one million named insects worldwide, and scientists speculate there may actually be over 10 million, so insect identification can be a daunting task. It took some searching and the answer finally came from an online website, “What’s That Bug.” One of the featured insects for August was the dobsonfly, our bug. Ours had large and menacing jaw-pincers so it was a male. Males have about a week to find a mate before they die, and these large pincers are used to hold the female. We learned a live male can’t injure us, but the female with the small pincers can give us a nasty bite. Both spray a foul smelling anal secretion.
The dobsonfly was near a famous trout stream—perfect habitat for it—is nocturnal and probably was attracted to the street light in front of the restaurant. Dobsonfly eggs hatch into larvae called hellgrammites that like well oxygenated water. They are segmented, have legs and gill filaments along their sides, grow up to 2 & 3/4” long, live under stream bed rocks, are aggressive insect eaters, and will bite fishermen who may use them as bait. In the 1960s DC Comics introduced a supervillain called the hellgrammite (transformed entomologist Roderick Rose) who challenged Batman, Superman, and others. His powers were not like the real insect, but were an interesting association. This villain could become a grasshopper-like being that spun cocoons and secreted sticky substances. After 2-4 years in the stream, the real hellgrammite crawls onto a stream bank, pupates in a cocoon over winter, and eventually emerges in a fourth form, the flying adult. An adult female lays about 3,000 eggs, dies, and the eggs begin the cycle again. It would be interesting to know if insects remember any of their life stages. Metamorphosis has puzzled and intrigued humans for ages, and this is still one question that even “What’s That Bug” is unable to answer.
For more information go to: http://www.whatsthatbug.com/