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Caterpillars, grubs, maggots and weevils
What a lot of weird, horrid crawly creatures!
To make them hubpages features
Seems a bit far-fetched,
Yet on our minds these are etched.
These larval forms of various insects are often transformed into things of beauty, creatures that are useful, or even creatures that are edible for human beings. We admire the butterfly so much that we often use the image in our craft-work, our embroidery, cross-stitch and even quilling.
It's a little like the story of the ugly duckling, really. The caterpillar may seem ugly, or at least a pest when it voraciously devours our garden plants at a rate of knots. Yet, when we look at him closely, he is quite wondrously made, with delightful patterns and colours. And, later, of course, he will take a rest while he transforms into a thing of beauty that is carried away on diaphanous wings. The caterpillar is the larval form of members of the Lepidoptera order; it is herbivorous, as we well know, and some people who like to catch butterflies are known as Lepidopterists.
We talk about 'grubbing about' in the garden, meaning that we're digging in the soil. That is just what grubs do and there are many different types of grubs. In Australia, we have quite a variety, many of which turn into beetles, although some are the larva of moths.
That reminds me of a favourite joke when I was a teenager. I actually stood up and told it at Music Camp at Geelong Grammar one year. It was about a boy who was a keen collector of butterflies and moths. He was delighted when he bought a new book with his pocket-money, but found it was all about babies instead. The title: Handbook for New Mothers!
There are the Bardi grubs that fishermen love to use for bait, especially along the mighty Murray River where they can be found among the roots of River Red Gums and Black Wattle trees. The Gums are huge and sturdy, but the daintier Black Wattles often die young, killed by the Bardi grubs. So keep up the good work, fishermen, you may be saving a Black Wattle!
Actually, there are a few different grubs that are referred to as witchetty, or witjuti grubs, but they are all large, white and edible. They are looked upon by traditional Australian aborigines as a delicacy and may be eaten raw or cooked. They are an excellent source of protein and I believe they taste good, too, but I haven't tried them. There's a bush in Central Australia that has been called a witchetty bush as they like to devour its roots. Traditionally, it's women's work to dig these grubs and we call them the larva of different types of cossid moths, such as the ghost moths and longhorn beetles.
Recently, there was quite an outcry because a passenger on a Qantas flight found a number of maggots in her Trail Mix. I would have thought they were weevils as maggots don't usually go much for nuts and dried fruit.
Maggots are the larva of a fly, usually what we call blow-flies. In the days when we went camping without refrigeration, just a folding 'Coolgardie' safe, that had sides of hessian kept wet from a reservoir at the top, we often had the disaster of flies 'blowing' the cooked meat. The blowflies would be buzzing around during the meal, one might land momentarily on the meat, but long enough to lay some eggs. By the next day, the eggs would have hatched into maggots and be crawling over the meat, making it inedible. Fishermen also put these creatures to good use, putting out pieces of meat to get them deliberately blown. When the maggots are a good size, they keep them soft in bran until they can be used as bait.
Maggots, although they are horrid creatures, also have another use: As a child I read that they saved a badly injured man's life by eating the gangrenous flesh.
When we lived on a remote island in Papua New Guinea, we often had to remove maggots from small spear-wounds on the cows. The small school-boys would borrow a file 'to sharpen their bush-knife' and use it to get some wire from the cow-yard fence to make the spear and then practice on patches of colour on the cows - until we woke up to what they were doing! Once we had a sick calf in the cow-yard. It had a bad gash and I hoped that the maggots (that also got into our wounds and tropical ulcers if we didn't keep them covered) would clean the wound. I had, as one of my 'useless treasures' a teat for a kid (baby goat), so tried to feed the calf a mix of boiled water and powdered milk, including crushed out-of-date penicillin tablets from the hospital. He was so beautiful and pathetic, but gradually got worse, so eventually we had to put him out of his misery, which was really sad.
Weevils are another of these insect creatures. Those that are called granary weevils are probably the most prevalent. As their name suggests, they love grain, especially wheat. They are very tiny and in the adult stage turn into small beetles. They just love cereal for breakfast!
When I was small, during World War II, Mother often found weevils in the flour, as she preferred wholemeal flour and so did the weevils. Sometimes I had to help sift the flour and remove the weevils before the bread or scones were made.
I hated these creatures, which didn't help when we took our two small daughters and went to live in Papua New Guinea. If we were lucky, about every six weeks a boat brought our orders from a store in the 'big smoke', a small island called Samarai. We sent our orders on the radio using a special crystal, different from those used to contact other outstations, ships or for reporting the weather to Port Moresby. In case the boat was held up, we kept plenty in the store cupboard. I purchased many things by the case, including boxes of cereal called Vitabrits. After a few weeks, even if I stored the cereal in drums, when I lifted each Vitabrit from the packet, tiny webs hung down with weevils swinging merrily on the ends. So, although it was tropics, the big range was lit early each morning, the cereal was placed in the oven and the weevils cooked. We joked that it was all the more protein!
How I appreciate all the 'mod cons' of the city!
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