My girl and I share a lot of characteristics, but when it comes to bugs, we are the opposite. Because she actually loves them. And I really didn’t. But kids do not only learn from us. I learnt from Janne to marvel at these miniature creatures, slowly overcoming my own fears for them along the way.
It all started with a pregnant mommy, a good daddy, a little garden and a curious toddler. The first months of my second pregnancy came with a lot of back pains, keeping me flat on the couch. Janne loved all animals – she still does – but in our tiny apartment in Seattle, pets weren’t an option. To entertain Janne while getting some gardening done and giving me some rest, Frederik would point out all the insects around her, but instead of being spooked, she started studying them and catching them. What she loved most in those early days, were potato bugs. Also named roly-poly’s as I quickly learned. Three year old Janne would walk in, ecstatically, showing off her catch of the day in a little container: mostly rolled up potato bugs. I was good at hiding my disgust while peeking in her cup. I would just add: “Make sure you release them back outside! We don’t want them to die.”
Soon, we weren’t allowed to kill bugs anymore, even if they were in our house. We got a new bug-friendly solution. We would say “Look here, Janne” and she would hover over whatever creepy crawler and then catch and release it outside. (Nowadays, we even get dirty looks from our pre-teen when we kill mosquitos or flies.)
Of course, we supported her in her interest. One adopted grandma gave her – what feels like – every kid’s encyclopedia on bugs there is over the years. Which we would read to her from front to cover. And when she wanted a bug’s birthday party at four, she got exactly that, not to all invited kids’ delight.
At five, her interest was dwindling. It didn’t help that she got stung by a drunken wasp at Halloween, resulting in a panicky fear every time a wasp comes near her. At the time, she was also heavily bargaining for a bunny. Frederik found stick bugs for free on e-Bay instead. I wasn’t too crazy about the idea. But I changed my mind! I can honestly recommend stick bugs for pets. They are very low key to keep and very quiet. And they even have their distinctive characters. In nature, they live for about a year, but ours, in captivity, lasted for two years. And I was very sad when the last one died. In the meantime, another type of stick bugs arrived in a cardboard box, bigger and creepier-looking, but they did not live that long.
Ever since, Frederik and Janne have been working on a new “pet” project. Apparently, our future pet bugs are pickier when it comes to temperature and humidity and so they have been handcrafting and engineering their new terrarium. Frederik is reluctant to tell me what type they have in mind and especially, how big they can get. Which just adds to their “Halloween-i-ness”: these tree-hugging insects are completely harmless, they cannot even bite you, but their appearance just makes you feel eerie and excited.
Another pet project awaits in the closet. Literally. Frederik revived another of Janne’s favorite subjects of admiration by introducing her to the YouTube Channel Ants Canada. By now, she has seen all episodes, knowing more about ants than I have ever heard of in my whole life. She walked through the door not long ago, ecstatically again, convinced that she had found a fertilized queen ant. It was a false alarm that first time, but the dream was born. Next day, she actually did find one, and four days later, she found another one.
Apparently, you can recognize queen ants by the middle part of the body, which is thick and full of nutrients to start their colony after they have been fertilized. They then lose their wings and start looking for a little dark nook in the ground to lay their eggs in the next few weeks, not needing any food, just a bit of moisture. So, we put a bit of water in test tubes, then some cotton, a queen ant and some more cotton to prevent her from crawling out. I was super excited when I found my own queen ant, a week later. And Frederik found another one another week later. Now we have four test tubes in the closet. As we learnt from Ants Canada, only one in four to five queen ants successfully start a new colony. We also only look at them once a week, because as soon as the light hits the tubes, they start trying to move their eggs. Indeed, three queen ants already laid eggs! Let’s hope we have babies in a couple of weeks. I will keep you posted on our antventures!