Insects are all about population-level survival of the species. Life is hard for individuals, starting right out of the egg-gate. You won’t ever catch young preying mantises, stinkbugs, caterpillars whining to Mom about the over-crowded nursery… she’s long gone. If Mom was around she’d likely say (in her buggy way), “If you don’t like it here, disperse!”
Dispersal is probably a good idea for reasons other than personal space. Non-social insects are serious about eating and if the meal that’s close at hand is a lover, or a sibling, or a child, well, let’s just say that bugs don’t need to be hangry to bite someone’s head off.
But I was reminded recently that there are some members of the six-legged set who appear to have an affinity for what Virginia Wolfe so memorably termed “a room of one’s own.” Dash had stopped to see if some smell was worth rolling in, and I took that opportunity to peruse my immediate surroundings. That’s when I noticed the tree in front of me had leaves with an interesting speckled pattern. I turned one of them over and saw those spots were the result of some insect squatters.
As terrier-boy and I continued on our way, I started watching for other signs of leafy residences with solo-occupants, and found several that demonstrate even larval life-forms like to decorate to suit their own aesthetic preferences.
It never fails to amaze me that there are a seemingly endless number of little universes, right here on the home planet. We don’t even have to build a spaceship and escape gravity to find them. For the most part, all these myriad Earthlings are completely unaware of each other’s existence, despite living side-by-side in the same three dimensions… at least until, for a brief moment when a dog catches a scent and stops to investigate, and his person takes that moment to do a little undercover work of her own.
We don’t have to look far to discover worlds within worlds within worlds.
What weird and wonderful lifeforms have you seen while traveling through the Great Outdoors? Share your thoughts, experiences, and photos in the comments section below!
[Thanks to the following photographers for making their work available through the Creative Commons license: Vlad Proklov (lime nail gall mite), Martin Male (caterpillar tent), Katja Schulz (Ocellate gall midge), Jason Hollinger (maple leaf), and gbohne (cherry oak galls).]