Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lurking

 I have an uneasy feeling that what I'm doing on this post is a bit unethical or at least intrusive, but I can't help myself. Ben has emerged from his Social Luddite cave to join Facebook. As with everything that kid does, he does it with own particular flair. I love his precision in writing and his dry humor and I am compelled to share a bit of it with you folks who are not his Facebook friends. I try to hold back from participating with him on Facebook because I'm hoping for him that it is a place he communicates with his age-group or interest-group peers. So, I've lifted a few of his early postings that report on his GLADE experience. These are all Ben's unedited status updates.
Benjamin Maples
Hmm, it really bothers me that every little thing I do here becomes recorded on this page, and everyone has access to almost every action I do here. This... is going to take a while to get used to. Also, yes, my profile picture is that of a wasp. Specifically, a wasp of the thread-waisted sort, an Ammophila, lover of sand. I stared at it as it was kicking sand into a hole last week! Fascinating.
Oh dear. It has only been approximately a day since I made an account on this insane website, and I have already been given 19 friend requests from family and GLADE people. I accepted all of them, apparently. I think I might need to redefine my personal meaning of 'friend' just for Facebook...
And how does this webpage know that I went to Bull Shoals last week? I never entered that information. This 'tagging' thing seems to do much more than what it initially appears to do. Why is it recording all those photos of me!? It is doing all sorts of crazy things!
Benjamin Maples
I will now begin a series of 'Status updates' in which I describe various memories of encounters with individual wild things because I feel like it. The first ones I describe shall all be from GLADE. As the people at GLADE found out very quickly, I am very fascinated by insects and other such creepy-crawly-things, so most will be regarding insects, probably. Because these words are just an introductory thing for this, no memory shall be included in this particular one. The first one will be... later! Now for the first of these things that I intend to be doing...
Sometime during the first day of GLADE (I think it was the first), we were sitting around in the pavilion thing, and there was a juvenile praying mantis on a bench. So, I picked it up. There is a picture of it somewhere at Hope Believe Inspire Photography. It could not fly away because it had not yet developed wings, so it resorted to crawling all over my hands and arms. I would watch it sway back and forth to determine depth, so it could jump and land safely. If I put the palm of my other hand in front of it, it would usually sway and jump onto it. If I waved my fingers past it, it would lash out with its claw-like forelegs. At some point, I let it crawl all the way up my arm to the back of my head, where it attempted to crawl to the top, but it would keep falling down after trying to climb over my hair. When I first let it go on another bench, we left to do another activity thing for a few hours; after we had come back and were watching the person from the zoo, I randomly found it again on my left knee. It was somewhat awkward trying to keep it away from the surely hungry reptiles being passed around. People said I was an 'insect whisperer' or something since it returned to me, but it did not come back after I released it a second time. On the third day of GLADE, Tuesday, we woke up rather early to catch birds, using ten bird nets set up in the forest around where we were. The staff recorded various data and observations about each bird and banded them, and the students were able to observe and hold the birds. The birds are not the focus of this, however.

When we were taking down the nets, somebody (I do not recall exactly who) found a rather large caterpillar nearby one of the nets; since I am the student entomologist person, it was quickly handed to me. I would describe what it looks like, but there are pictures of it at Hope Believe Inspire Photography (and elsewhere on the Internet) that make my job somewhat easier. After searching on the Internet a bit, I am fairly certain it is the caterpillar of the 'Cecropia moth' (Hyalophora cecropia), which happens to be the largest native North American moth. Most of the time, particularly while the branch it was on was moving around with my hand, its head was tucked in a bit, as if trying to hide from these gigantic monsters that were ogling the poor creature. At some point, it did move around and try to grab at the leaf that was on the stick I was holding it with, but it never actually ate it. I refrained from touching it, for I was unsure of whether its protuberances would have some sort of adverse effect or something (but, I doubt it now).

Soon after this caterpillar was found, we found a rough green snake on the road leading to the boys' residence. We found two small, docile, hard-to-find animals within minutes! I held the snake in one hand and the caterpillar in the other, which was amusing. I had a 'staring contest' with the snake, too, and it actually stared back; of course, the snake always wins because it cannot blink, but I think I kept my eyes open longer than I ever have. It was shown to the herpetologist that came later.

I placed the caterpillar on a small tree in the forest near the pavilion, and it stayed in that general area while I went and did other things. I checked on it between activities every day and sometimes brought people to see it, and it stayed for the whole week of GLADE. I could see it crawling and gorging itself with leaves; once, I happened to come upon it as it was pooping! I showed the small acorn-shaped 'frass' to other people, who thought I should put it in someone's salad or something. Instead, I put it in a petri dish under a microscope.

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