Today I am commencing part one of a multi-part series titled Interesting Insects. (OK, I know that scorpions, which feature in one of today's stories, aren't insects, but interesting creepy crawlies would spoil the alliteration). These stories will be gleaned from a number of sources, such as web sites, newspaper cuttings, and letters from other Forteans or cryptozoologists. As is mostly my practice I will be presenting the information in the order in which the occurrences or instances of unusual insect life take place, which is not necessarily the same date as the publication of the book. For example, if a book published in 2009 reports a strange moth in Birmingham in 1909, then the latter date is the one to look out for. Parts one to three are based on observations I have collected in the sources mentioned above whilst later, observations by our mentor Charles Fort published in his complete books.
Hopefully an issue of The Amateur Naturalist in 2010 will be publishing an account of my trip to Hungary in May 2009 to study the fauna of the Aggtelek National Park, particularly its butterflies.
Inevitably most of my cuttings date from the last 35 years or so, this being how long I have been active in cryptozoology/Forteana.
So here we go. The earliest record I have worth recounting is from the 1600s, from antiquarian John Aubrey`s The Natural History of Wiltshire (1847 edition, originally published in c. 1691), my copy of which a colleague of mine at Thornton`s Bookshop in Oxford bought me, before the bookshop became defunct:
'Riding in the north lane of Broad Chalke in the harvest time in the twy-light, or scarce that, a point of light, by the hedge, expanded itselfe into a globe of about three inches diameter, or neer four, as boies blow bubbles with soape. It continued but while one could say one, two, three, or four at the most. It was about a foot from my horse`s eie; and it made him turn his his head quick aside from it. It was a pale light as that of a glow-worme: it may be this is that which they call a blast or blight in the country.' (1). Broad-Chalke is the next village westwards of Bishopstone, near Salisbury where I spent that part of my childhood that wasn`t spent in Hong Kong.
Now the interesting thing is that Aubrey compares this to a 'glow-worme'; he does not say it is a glow-worm.
Concerning the Giant Earwig of St. Helena (Labidura herculeana): 'This extraordinary insect, which reaches the huge (for an earwig) size of between 21/2 and 3 inches, was discovered in 1798 by the Danish zoologist, Fabricus. It then vanished for nearly two centuries. In 1962 an expedition looking for bird bones buried in the sand of this isolated and tiny South Atlantic island discovered body parts which appeared to come from a giant earwig. Three years later another expedition found living ones, but since then no Giant Earwigs have been found. It seems almost certain, however that, in this particular case the truth IS out there' (2) Five years prior to this CFZ report, The Guardian reported:
'They [Paul Pearce-Kelly, then a zoologist at London Zoo and Dr Graham Drucker a zoologist at the World Conservation Monitoring Unit, Cambridge] are...in pursuit of a giant beetle – also believed to be extinct – and three species of blushing snail, of enormous importance to evolutionary theorists. (3)
Jumping ahead to 1870, here is a note from a journal called The Naturalists Note-Book on a favourite of mine, British locusts: 'Locust- On the 11th November , in a bright gleam of sunshine
We caught a locust on the jessamine growing over the front of our house. Thinking it more merciful to have it quickly despatched, and wishing to preserve it intact, I applied to a chemist, who speedily destroyed it with prussic acid, that fact that it was feeble rendering it easy to adminster the dose...I presume it is a migratory locust; but how is it that there is no green colour anywhere? There is a little bit of red on the body; but generally it is of a flat, grey hue. It is about two and a half inches in length; that is, the body without the legs; and the spread of the wings from tip to tip, nearly five inches. I hear that several have been caught in this neighbourhood during the last few weeks. How do they get here? Are they stragglers blown out of their course? Or is it possible that they are brought in some cargoes? I have had the above account sent to me by my sister, who resides at Truro, in Cornwall.-H.BUDGE' (4)
Finally, a mystery that dates from at least 1872: 'A colony of scorpions is alive and well and living on the Isle of Sheppey. The cold British winters should have seen off the scorpions years ago, yet the colony of Euscorpius flavicaudis has survived for more than 120 years-although probably not in great comfort…With no natural enemies on Sheppey apart from the occasional human who might tread on one, these scorpions have survived because of their remarkable adaptability. They retreat deep into their cracks to escape the cold and do nothing but wait for the next woodlouse.' (5)
J.Aubrey The Natural History of Wiltshire 1847 p.18
J.Downes. Mystery Insects C.F.Z website. Downloaded April 15th 1998
T.Radford Scientists set off on the track of the giant earwig. The Guardian. September 23rd 1993.
H.Budge Locust. The Naturalist`s Note-Book 1870 p.44
Anon. Scorpions in a cold climate. New Scientist May 16th 1992. p.15
Richard will be back on tuesday.
For any of you going through hard times tonight…
U2- Drowning Man:
“Take My hand,
You know I`ll be there,
If you can I`ll cross the sky
For your love,
And I understand
These winds and tides,
This change of times
Won`t drag you away.
Hold on,hold on tightly,
Hold on and don`t let go
Of My Love
The storms will pass
It wont be long now,
His love will last
His love will last, forever.