Keep­ing the bugs where they be­long

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE -

Bugs keep find­ing their way into my house. I don’t mean the win­ter flu va­ri­ety; rather, the ones that fit pleas­ingly into small hands, tick­ling and writhing against their cheer­ful cap­tors’ palms.

I’m not squea­mish about in­sects, but I do have my bound­aries – pri­mar­ily, the four walls of my home. I up­hold these bound­aries. My chil­dren do not.

My four-year-old is a care­ful, thought­ful kid, who doesn’t particularly like mess but has no prob­lem with crit­ters.

His trea­sure box en­shrines a shriv­elled worm that he peeled off the driveway, as well as a hand­ful of ci­cada cas­ings that he pe­ri­od­i­cally pulls out and wears snagged on to his cloth­ing.

My youngest son, who is al­most two, has just started at day­care a cou­ple of morn­ings a week. When I picked him up re­cently, I was as­sured that he’d had a great day, with lots of out­door play after the rain abated. In­deed, he’d filled his pock­ets with the worms he’d dug out of the sod­den grass.

Were there any still in there? I asked, think­ing de­spair­ingly of my wash­ing ma­chine. Maybe just one or two, they re­as­sured.

In­sects do pro­vide chil­dren with a gen­tle in­tro­duc­tion to the is­sues of life and death. In sum­mer, I watched Mil­lan carry a dis­placed pray­ing man­tis out­side to lib­er­ate it in the gar­den.

A minute later, I heard a heart­break­ing wail and hur­ried to his side.

‘‘I put it on the leaf,’’ he was howl­ing, ‘‘ and it fell off!’’ I hugged him, and was crouch­ing down to help him look for the in­sect when he sobbed, ‘‘And then the chicken ate it!’’

He may have learned some­thing from that re­source­ful hen, how­ever. A few weeks later, he glided in­side after help­ing his fa­ther stack fire­wood, care­fully bran­dish­ing a large piece of bark. ‘‘Look, Mum!’’ he said, with breathy de­light.

‘‘Hmm?’’ I smiled dis­tract­edly, fol­lowed by, ‘‘Oh good grief!’’

His strip of bark was a plat­ter for a bloated, squirm­ing huhu grub. ‘‘Me and Dad are go­ing to eat it,’’ Mil­lan told me solemnly.

That night, while I cooked tea, my part­ner and son were also heat­ing a pan on the stove. ‘‘We want him to be nice and crispy, don’t we?’’ they con­sulted each other.

I know that there is a grow­ing move­ment in favour of the con­sump­tion of in­sects – in fact, 80 per cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion al­ready in­clude them in their diet.

Cricket flour has even made it on to the shelf at my lo­cal New World – but never into my bas­ket. Shame­fully, the huhu grub was too far out­side the com­fort zone of my Motueka kitchen. My bound­aries were breached. I lost my ap­petite.

GRANT MATTHEW/ STUFF

In­sects have their place but ideally it’s not in the home.

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