Nights below freezing. Days not warm. Resting in perpetual shade. Yet still alive.
Pulling out of my garage around 5:30 the other morning, I immediately noticed something. Something large. Something large enough to catch my attention in the mirror before I could see it directly. It hung on the wall outside the garage door.
I stopped as I reversed the car, then I rolled down the passenger window for a non-tinted look. A bug. A true bug, not just an insect. A rather sizable critter, too: about 40mm/1.5in in length.
Certainly it’s dead, I thought, frozen from the snow and cold and lack of sunlight. I’ll check it when I get back. And so I did, though I waited until daylight gave me some ability to capture a few photos.
A leaf-footed bug (Acanthocephala declivis). I grabbed a ruler and measured it, surprised at its size given reference material that stated a 25mm-30mm length. Sure enough, it sailed beyond the paltry guides and landed at a healthy Texas-sized measurement.
It never moved as I slipped and slid on ice trying to get some photos of it. Yep, it’s dead alright.
I reached out and touched it. It immediately extended its antennae and shuffled its feet. Um, OK, not so dead after all.
Given hard freezes each night, I assumed it had only just crawled up the wall and in fact would die the next night. What have we been taught about assumptions?
It’s now four days after I discovered it. Not only is the bug in the same general area, but it’s still alive—albeit sluggish, especially early before temperatures warm above freezing.
It must be at the end of its life, already mated or too late to mate, sitting in the cold waiting for darkness to take it.
Its longevity on the wall gives me a sense of familiarity, a kinship of sorts. I check it each day, if not several times per day, and each time I look it has moved to a slightly different position, sometimes with antennae out and sometimes with them retracted, folded as it were alongside the front of its body.
Nothing about insects in winter surprises me. In fact, our quirky weather makes it possible for all sorts of surprising critters to make appearances when it seems unwise or unhealthy for them to do so. River cooters bathing on logs when it’s freezing? Yep, as long as the sun’s out. Flies and beetles running about when the wind blows cold? Yep, as long as the air is warm enough or there’s plenty of sunshine to bathe in.
Yet this one surprises me. It never gets sun in its position. That said, it’s right there, right now, still kickin’ and still hangin’ on.