Earthworms and other fallacies

I’ve been lying in bed for the last hour pondering the fact that everything in Africa seems to have developed some form of pre emptive self defense that involves reducing me to a state of complete and utter surrender. I know that this may seem repetitive and an ongoing theme of this blog, but I’ve been forced to acknowledge that perhaps it’s not the wildlife but rather me.

The root of the problem is what I have identified as the ability of the human brain to place an overly large amount of faith in what can only be described as bullshit. You see I’ve come to the conclusion that as human beings we thrive on certainties that only become the gospel truth when repeated over and over again.

Now normally this wouldn’t be an insurmountable problem. Telling a child that both halves of an earthworm will grow into two separate worms that will go about their daily business harms no one (except possibly the earthworm). Telling an adult that the dogs that growl don’t bite is another kettle of fish entirely.

My personal experience is that my friends and acquaintances now know that when I spot a beetle on the window frame and say something along the lines of “that’s a green bellied toe biter which is capable of firing a deadly blast of cyonic acids from its posterior to deter predators” they most often simply don’t believe me.

The problem is that they don’t want to touch the beetle to prove me wrong because every now and then I actually know what I’m talking about. The fact that I once read a children’s guide to the flora and fauna of South Africa makes the knowledge I have just dangerous enough for all involved to be uncertain as to the correct action to take..

The real danger however, is that if you repeat facts to yourself enough times you may actually begin to buy into your own bullshit and this is when things can rapidly take a turn for the worse.

Take for instance the scream I heard not so long ago from one of the bathrooms in my home. Now those with young children will know that bathroom based screams are rarely, if ever good, so I at once leaped into pointless action to find out what the problem was.

The problem was in fact one of the largest and most terrifying spiders that I have ever seen sitting on a window ledge. If this spider had a CV it would have read “winner of the world’s most terrifying Arachnid competition 2009, 2010, not permitted to enter in 2011 to make things fairer for other terrifying Arachnids”.

The significant other is Arachnophobic so no help there. Taking stock of the situation a leant down to my young daughter and stated in a confident voice that this spider was a representative of the baboon spider family, that is well known to experts to be relatively shy and only uses the threat display of its massive fangs (see, you can spot them there if you look closely) to deter predators so that it can reach safety unharmed.

I don’t need to tell you the result of this misplaced confidence but I’m going to anyway. A swift poke at the spider with a long broom handle so enraged the beast, that it ran up the broom, and made a spirited attempt to bite my hand off. I threw the broom and the spider out of the window and beat a swift retreat to the wails of my daughter accusing me of harming one of Mother Nature’s creations.

Why I'd go anywhere near this thing I'll never know

The only conclusions that I can come to is that my brain is trying to kill me and that the voices in my head should be ignored at all costs. Oh, and I need to find people who actually know what they’re talking about. Also lesser insectivorous bats are not small cute harmless furry flying mammals only put on this Earth to control the insect population (A Beginners Guide To Mammals of sub Saharan Africa),  they also can give you a nasty nip and they carry rabies. Live and hopefully learn.


The Mosquito Conundrum

Summer is in full swing in South Africaand this summer evening I simply can’t seem to fall asleep. While the rest ofJohannesburgeither falls into a stupefied slumber or drifts off to the land of nod, depending on preference, I’m unable to close my eyes and let the gently soothing night sounds of the African Highveld lull me into pillow drooling oblivion.

The reason is mosquitoes, and not for the reason that you might think. I’m having issues with mosquitoes and Darwin’s theory of natural selection, never let it be said that I let bedtime thought descend to the level of the mundane.

You see I simply can’t fathom how or why a living organism that should rely on stealth for its sustenance should make such an irritating noise. Surely if your purpose is to land undetected and fill your abdomen with tasty hemoglobin nature would by now have ensured that you do it with as little disturbance to the unwilling donor as possible. Having your victim thrash about as though in the throes of an epileptic fit would make the whole process not only complicated, but messy for all parties involved and potentially lethal for yourself.

A serious design flaw

By rights this approach should have consigned mosquitoes to the cupboard behind the door of evolution that’s labeled ‘must try harder’ by now.

Many of the good lords’ creations like rattlesnakes and mothers in law make an irritating noise but most of these make a racket for reasons that enhance their survival potential by driving off other organisms that could do them harm.

Other blood drinkers try to be as stealthy as possible, the Vampire Bat for instance lands some distance away from its intended victim and sort of shuffles up to it before sinking its teeth in for a midnight snack. Although light sleepers will never hit the snooze button again after seeing one of these beasties sidle up like an arthritic nightmare. So even this approach has the potential to reduce the pool of alert available human victims.

I think, on second thought, that I'd prefer the risk of Malaria

However, back to the pondering on planet sleepless.

I just don’t know why a mosquito makes this irritating sound. Having someone try to hit you with a pillow or a shoe night after night just doesn’t make sense as a survival enhancing mechanism.

Scientists have found ancient mosquitoes frozen in lumps of solidified tree resin (the oldest found so far was in a lump of 79 million year old Canadian amber, don’t ever say that visiting this blog doesn’t further your education) so they’ve been around for some time. They’ve fed off dinosaurs and caused Neanderthals sleepless nights so there must surely be a reason for that annoying whine. Some research has indicated that it attracts mates, I’ve certainly met women like that.

This theory does have some holes in it (mosquito, holes, you see what I did there), seeing as the male mosquito feeds on plant nectar, doesn’t usually stay up after eight PM and wouldn’t be seen dead in a strangers bedroom.

A mystery then, part of this rich and sometimes annoying tapestry of life provided courtesy of Mother Nature at her most pre menstrual.