Clarissa Johal: Bug-Girl

Saturday, June 6, 2009


September 7, 2008

Our 8-year-old daughter has earned a dubious title in our family; Bug-Girl.
From the tender age of six, my little darling decided that she was going to grow up to be an entomologist and travel around the world collecting bugs.
I love bugs.
Actually, I really don’t.
But because I don’t want to be responsible for killing her dream, or her bugs, and sending her to therapy once she’s grown, I’ve allowed her to collect and observe a plethora of bugs in her bug jars. Fireflies, spiders, assassin bugs, flies, pill-bugs, assorted beetles, centipedes, dragonflies and walking sticks; they’ve all come to spend a night or two in an empty Prego jar. I always think twice before rummaging around in my daughter’s room for anything, because you just…never...know.
And it doesn’t just stop at the collecting and observing--we’ve saved crickets from a sure death in our turtle tank, hatched praying mantises, gone through the caterpillars-into-butterflies life-cycle, fed a spider “fresh-caught flies” (until it happily reproduced and laid about a million eggs) and have had the pleasure of owning a “space-age gel” ant-farm.
When I’m secretly squishing ants on the counters of our kitchen, the irony is not lost upon me that we’ve purchased ants for my daughter’s “space-age gel” ant-farm.
However, through it all, she has taught me to appreciate all forms of insects. I’ve been educated on what it looks like to see hundreds of baby mantises hatch and crawl all over their netted and enclosed home like little ticks. And, I must admit, seeing caterpillars turn themselves into the alien-like cocoons which burst magically in the blink of an eye into wet and crumpled butterflies is pretty darn exciting. Especially, if you are a fan of butterflies.
I personally, am not a fan of butterflies.
I would sooner go into a cage of lions, and have had the pleasure of doing so, rather than witness a butterfly with wings the size of dinner-plates, spastically fly towards my head.
But I suck it up like any mom…because I love my daughter.
So, it goes without saying that I am constantly looking for classes and books to enrich my daughters bug-loving knowledge and experience. And it also goes without saying, that when I saw in our Parks and Recreation booklet that they were having an all-day Eco-Adventure kayaking trip around the wetlands, "Sure to be filled with insects and wildlife! A hit with your budding insect and wildlife-loving eco-child!" I signed us up immediately--with no thought at all to the fact that…I don’t like bugs. Wildlife yes, bugs no.
My daughter was thrilled.
Sadly, the night before our adventure, it rained and rained. However, the weather forecast promised sun and warm temperatures by the next morning, so I proceeded to pack and prepare for 8 hours of hot sun and humid wetlands. I packed our sun-hats, our camera, our waterproof sun-block and mosquito repellent, an emergency medical kit and our most rugged and element-enduring clothing. I packed our lunch in waterproof containers. I was ready for anything.
Or so I thought.
True to the weather forecast, it was sunny and warm the next morning. In fact, it was 90 degrees of warm. However, it didn't seem hot in the wetlands at all. I think the fact that we were sitting in 2 inches of water all day, which had mysteriously pooled in the bottom of our kayak, made us feel much cooler.
And apparently, the heavy rain from the night before had flushed out many creatures we wouldn’t have normally had the gift of observing.
The neat thing if you should ever decide to participate in an Eco-Adventure trip; lots of wildlife. We saw beavers and beaver dams, egrets, vultures, frogs, flocks of birds; including Pileated woodpeckers, schools of beautiful fish, and the highlight—a bald eagle.
The not-so-neat things; bugs. Thousands of them.
Not the mosquitoes I thought there would be, I had prepared for that, but apparently after a hard rain, all the bugs in North Carolina were stranded in the trees around the wetlands and looking for "dry land."
In this case, “dry land” was our kayak.
There's nothing more nightmarish than being out in a kayak in the middle of a lake and seeing spiders the size of your hand scuttling across the water to dry-dock themselves in your boat. Followed by; hundreds of more spiders.
After realizing that it was impossible not to have spiders in our kayak, we got used to flicking them out of our boat as they came. And they came....and came...and came.
In addition to the spiders, every time we hit a tree trying to maneuver our kayak around the wetland area, hundreds of grasshoppers would rain down on our heads. And I won't even go into the leeches. Yes, leeches.
But, I was proud of myself. I didn't scream or jump into the lake and attempt to swim to shore like I wanted to. I didn’t tell my daughter she was crazy for thinking every spider and grasshopper would make an awesome and wonderful pet. I just endured. To be honest, I would do it again in a heartbeat to see my daughter as happy as she was. She didn’t stop smiling the whole time. It’s what you do when you’re a mom. I keep telling myself.
So this year, when the same trip came up once again, I bravely asked my Bug-Girl if she wanted to go.
Thankfully, she had, “done that, been there,” and didn’t.
No arguments here.


Guruseva said...

8 hours in the humid wet lands with bugs! Yeesh, you do love your kids.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

She will have her own bug show one day...look for her on Animal Planet.