If you don’t like insects, arachnids, and other creepy-crawly critters, then it might be a good idea to stop reading right now. Especially if you don’t feel like coming face-to-antennae with photographic forms of some of them in the next few minutes.
Still with me?
All right. You have been warned.
Did you know that there is a Little Five in addition to the Big Five? The elephant shrew, rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise, and ant lion. (See, safaris in Botswana are educational!) None of those fine fellows feature in my post today, but I have rounded up a collection of my smaller neighbors to share with you.
At the start of rainy season, these fine fellows attacked any light source and mobbed it. They were impossible to keep out of buildings, and for about a week you usually needed a basin of water sitting in the house somewhere so that when you caught the inswa, you could toss them in the water, where their wings would get wet so that they would stop flying around (and sometimes hitting people in the head). They are LARGE (bigger than a baby’s finger) and have a double set of wings with a span almost as wide as my hand, for the big ones. We would sweep a carpet of wings and de-winged bugs off of the verandah every morning. This is the collection underneath the light at the side of the house.
They’re edible, but Tongas don’t eat them. I was keen to try some, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to prepare them (toss them in a pan and let them fry in their own fat. Or collect them in a bucket of water, dry them, and then fry them in their own fat. Either way, they seem to be eaten as a snack food, more than a main course, and I’m told that they’re an excellent source of protein, but give some people digestive problems because of the high fat content), and I was away from home most evenings that week, and also having diarrhea and not keen to eat something that has a reputation for giving people diarrhea — and then they were gone. It stopped raining for a few days, and one night there suddenly were not inswa everywhere. I’ve possibly seen a few small ones now and then, but not on nearly the same scale as that first week. I was told later that they’re larvae underground, and all hatch at once when the first good rains come. There are other insects like that, too: one day as I was walking to the hospital, a particular sort of small fly just seemed to be cascading out of little holes in the ground.
So I haven’t eaten inswa yet.
Ever since the rains started (are you noticing a theme here? There are a lot more insects since the rains started), we’ve periodically found one on these things on the verandah in the morning, typically stuck inside a plastic tub or stranded upside-down like a miniature beached whale with lots of wiggling legs.
I was sure that I had photographs of the leaf-camouflage insect, but I’m not finding them right now. Perhaps it’s hiding. Instead, I’ll leave you with a picture of my least-favorite housemate: