It wasn’t until a few nights ago when I was foolishly tracking down an abnormally loud hissing noise in my courtyard that I realized how often I have sprung for my camera at the site of a terrifying insect of some sort. In fact, I’m willing to bet that at least half of the photos I have taken in the last few weeks have been of unusual bugs. Naturally, I thought it warranted a blog post because of course, each photo has a story.
We’ll start with the earliest of my unusual insect encounters. The, “Why is that worm flying” bug. This first encounter is special because it occurred while I was still at homestay in Morogoro and provided not only an opportunity for me to closely observe this bug with people who knew what it was but also provided my homestay family an opportunity to observe me observing bugs, which they found hilarious.
The “Why is that worm flying” bug can easily be classified among the least intelligent creatures on planet earth. Insanity, it has been said, is the act of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. With that, I would like to officially take this opportunity to, in italics, offer the “Why is that worm flying” bug as an example. The only time I ever saw the “WITWF” bug was at night, around my family’s outdoor kitchen under the one florescent light that lit the backyard. They came in swarms, hundred of these huge maggots with wings circling the only light source. This, of course, was not unusual to me. What was unusual was that rather than simply hovering around the light the “WITWF” bug chose to fly at full speed directly into the light, knocking themselves unconscious, falling to the ground on their backs, waking up, frantically buzzing their wings to flip right side over, resting for a moment and then repeating, at full speed towards the same light! It blew my mind. Hundreds of these bugs would repeat this over and over again for hours. Naturally I was terrified of their scaly mealworm exterior that seemed too long and heavy for evolution to waste it’s time with wings. Maybe the wings are on their way out, and at this rate, I’d say they deserve to lose them.
The “Why is That Worm Flying?” bug.
We will stick with our chronological progression but jump a few months into my service at site, but only a few days in my permanent home. In fact, the next three insects worthy of being included in this particular post were all encountered here, in my newly acquired humble two-bedroom home. Coincidence? No.
This next insect was coined the “lobster spider” by a friend and fellow PCV in the region who has apparently encountered them often. She told me their real name too, but “lobster spider” was all that stuck. For any insect sympathizers out there I will warn you now, the lobster spider in the photo below could only be captured after its death considering its frighteningly fast speed which of course, only added to its horror. This one was waiting for me just inside my front door when I came home one afternoon after teaching, and he knew he shouldn’t be there. He immediately scurried into the second room and around the corner so fast, in fact, that my only possible reaction could have been and was to step on him in order to stop him. It was a gutsy little spider, which wasn’t fun to clean. Anyways, this arachnid became more terrifying the longer and closer I had to examine. He had long, hairy legs and two gigantic pinchers for a face. Now, my Teva’s did do some pretty serious damage but surprisingly a lot of his body was still in tact, in tact enough, anyways, for me to get a photo to share with all of you.
The "Lobster Spider"
The next bug actually became less terrifying the more time I had to examine it. Our encounter did, however, begin in a rather terrifying manner. I was sitting in my ceiling-less second room (which, to clarify, does have a roof, just no ceiling tiles) when from the right upper corner of the roof a gigantic humming shadow came straight for me. This thing was huge, the size of a small bat with its wings out. Then it was silent. Maybe it went away, I hoped. But there it was again; the gigantic shadow flew from the floor to the roof, clearly not planning or capable of leaving on its own. So I got my camera and tracked it down. Turns out it was just a really large leaf bug which left me more intrigued than afraid. After getting a few shots of him on the florescent light he'd landed on I gently wrapped him in a kanga and took him outside. In only all of these encounters could end in such a peaceful way.
The "Leaf Bug"
Which brings me to my most recent and least favorite encounter. On my way to bring my laundry in from the line in my courtyard one evening I heard a very loud hissing coming from the unused kitchen portion of my back living area. My curiosity trumped my better judgment and with nothing more than my small headlamp (there was no power on this particular evening) I went in search of “the hisser.” Now initially I was expecting to only find a small cricket, amplified by the shape and materials of the structure that composed this particular area of the courtyard. Not surprisingly I did find just such a cricket only he was on a high ledge in the back of the room, which of course, to get a good photo, would require a closer observation. I carefully scanned the walls and floor of the room I entered a half footstep at a time, my small, slowly dying headlamp attached to my forehead leading the way. I knew the noise being made was loud, possibly too loud for a cricket the size I was chasing but I proceeded regardless. Then, half way to the cricket, standing dead center of the room I realized I had diligently examined every portion of concrete surrounding me except for the ceiling. As I looked up, just inches from my face, an insect four times the size of the original hissing culprit lorded over the entire room with its legs clung wrapped around a supporting roof beam! I don’t even know what to call this bug other than the hisser. Maybe it is some type of queen cricket? I have no idea. What I do know is that next time I will be sure to check the ceiling. This photo still creeps me out.
It’s worth noting, I think, that in the process of writing this not only have I killed about a dozen mosquitoes I have also stopped twice, scratch that, THREE TIMES to investigate what could have been possible additions to this post. I think I might start writing in the room with a ceiling from now on.
Also, if anyone knows the actual names of any of these insects I would love to learn them and it would make this particular post far more educational than it currently stands, so please, feel free to post in the comments below.