Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Be Still My Heart

On our walk tonight, we came across a tomato hornworm. It was being attacked by fireants (I don't know if it had somehow managed to appear to be a threat or if they were hoping to fill their coffers with some gooey insect protein goodness).

The boys wanted to save it, but the damage these things have done to my tomatoes and peppers over the years taxes even my liberal heart. I did agree to move it a short distance and knock the ants away so that we could study it.

We discussed that insects have 6 legs, and then I flipped it over and asked them to find the legs. Hyperion pointed at the true legs, Oceanus got confused (or just wanted to disagree with his brother) and pointed at the prolegs. Fun teaching moment to explain the difference and allow them to observe the function.

Now, I do this all the time. Earth Sciences are my passion. Hey, forestry degree here. Usually they roll their eyes and gripe. But tonight? They were both excited and talked about how cool it was that I taught them that. Of course, we were on our way to McDonald's so they could have just been buttering me up.

On the way back, we found it almost where we'd left it, but curled up and almost dead. I suspect the venom from the ants was just too much for it. If you've ever been bitten by a fireant, you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, think of the worst steam burn you've ever had - the way it kept burning long after you've cooled the burn and that approximates the way these bites feel. They burn for hours.

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