Monday, August 19, 2013


Daddy-longlegs on the prowl
One thing I don’t miss about life in south Louisiana is the onslaught of ubiquitous mosquitoes, or, as the French call them, “maringouins.”  Usually when I return to New Iberia in October, they’re still hovering outside my window that faces the backyard patio, and they’re probably the last thing I see dancing on the window before I leave for The Mountain in Sewanee, Tennessee in the early Spring. In bayou country, I seldom see granddaddy-longlegs or daddy-longlegs poised on my sill, and I’ve always heard that these spidery-looking insects hunt and consume mosquitoes.
However, here in my cottage on the Cumberland Plateau, daddy-long-legs seem to enjoy peering in my bedroom window, bunching up in pairs or groups on the wall near one window and delighting in startling me when I look outdoors to greet the morning, their long legs outstretched as if ready to envelop me in an unwanted embrace. I know they’re harmless and aren’t true spiders, but these critters with their long skinny legs look sinister enough for me to hunt for a broom so I can sweep them into the yard where they feed on dead organisms, which is one of their favorite meals.
I find several daddy-longlegs entwined at times and suppose they’re either mating or getting ready to dance, but I don’t understand why they appear in the morning as they’re known to prefer nocturnal life in the nightclubs of the woods. They join the crowd of insects and critters that congregate in my yard at night – a parade that includes katydids, fireflies, coons, deer, brown rabbits, foxes, and marauding skunks. Recently, I wrote a poem about these critters that will be included in my new book of poetry, In A Convent Garden and Other Poems, but I won’t preview this poem until the book is published sometime next month.
Back to daddy-longlegs – they don’t weave webs, and if you see them in a web, it’s because a large spider with fangs captured them. They also like to play dead when disturbed, and I always fear they've met their Maker when I take a broom to them, only to see them suddenly spread their long legs and descend the moss-covered steps leading to our front porch.
Daddy-longlegs were on this earth 410 million years ago and are related to scorpions, but I guess they’ve evolved into a more compassionate insect and can actually be held in your hand, if you can stand the tickling sensation. Despite bad press about being poisonous, they actually have no fangs, praise be my privilege to porch sit without fear of insect bites.
In the evenings when I sit on the front porch and watch squirrels playing in the white oaks or fawns emerging from the small woods facing our cottage, I usually have to dispose of my long-legged peeping Tom friends who have begun to gather in groups that are too close for my comfort. But I must admit, I hardly ever see a mosquito, even though we’ve been besieged by rain this summer on the Plateau – the stories about their appetite for mosquitoes must be true.
When my daughter from California visited me a few years ago, she was appalled by the abundant insects and critters in the yard, including a line-up of redbugs, ticks, spiders, locusts, and the sinister-looking daddy-longlegs. She also encountered poison ivy and went home, scratching mightily, leaving behind the comment, “I don’t think I’d like to live here.” However, she has learned to live alongside lizards, possums, desert rats, snakes, and other critters that populate her backyard in the Mohave Desert, not to mention wildfires, earthquakes, and an absence of gentle rain that she, a native Louisianan, likes to hear pattering on the roof.
To each its own in the natural world… even if I take a broom to those insects that appear on my porch each morning lately. However, I do wield the broom gently, honoring the food chain and attempting to keep my mosquito control program active.
P.S. The daddy-longlegs haven’t moved a sixteenth of an inch since I looked out at 7 a.m. and it is now close to 11. I guess they’re sleeping off their nighttime revelry.
Photograph by Victoria Sullivan

1 comment:

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