The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Urband legend: the earwig of the north

Ken scans the horizon for bears

So my new bear monitor, Ken, is fantastic.  Super-nice fellow, and (pleasant surprise) super-keen on the work!  I wish I’d had a camera handy yesterday while I was servicing pitfall and pan traps…he was running across the valley, a cigarette in one hand and my aerial net in the other, tracking down a butterfly!  He lost it, but still…it was worth the lost specimen just to watch him at work!

When it was safe to do so, he would crouch down on the ground with me as I collected my specimens, commenting on species he knew, and those he’d never seen before.  I asked him about how insects were perceived by locals here.  He pointed at some small, plain, dark Carabids (ground beetles) floating on the surface of the preservative in a yellow pan trap and said, “Those beetles…the locals are afraid of them.”

Afraid?  Whatever for? 

An elder was out camping on the land.  A small beetle was under his bedroll, and eventually freed itself from the weight of the person above…it crawled over the man’s sleeping bag, and…HORRORS!…right into the elder’s ear!  And what did it do once it was there?  CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH!  It started to chew away at the elder’s eardrum!  Sick and disoriented (and hearing CRUNCHes), and occasionally passing out, no one could figure out what was wrong with him.   Finally, someone poured some water into his ear, and out floated the little beetley culprit.

Now, you tell me, is that not a story about earwigs?  I don’t know if it’s true or if it’s a well-spread urban legend here, but it was a wonderful story to hear!

After we finished collecting at one of my sites, Ken thoughtfully led me just a little further south to show me a new view of the river:

Coppermine River, looking down towards Bloody Falls

Wow.  Deep, plunging sandy cliffs; the only thing keeping them from slipping into the river was the tiny bit of vegetation and the permafrost beneath the soft surface.  Ice several feet thick still rests on the northern shore. 

Every time I think I’ve seen the most spectacular view here, I find an even more spectacular view.  This place is just so darned beautiful.

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5 responses to “Urband legend: the earwig of the north

  1. Ted C. MacRae June 29, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    “Deep, plunging sandy cliffs” – any tiger beetles? 🙂

    • TGIQ June 29, 2010 at 6:21 PM

      Ha. TRUST me, I’m looking…this place is one giant mound of sand! In fact, I was asking my monitor about them today, he thinks he’s seen them before. So I will be on the hunt…any tips for good places to look?

      • Ted C. MacRae June 29, 2010 at 8:58 PM

        Any sparsely vegetated areas deserve a look, depending on where you are. Across Canada, Cicindela longilabris is in open sandy grassy areas near coniferous forests, while C. repanda, C. duodecimguttata, and C. hirticollis might be found on moist sand beaches along streams and rivers. In Manitoba, C. limbata and C. lengi might be found in dry sand barrens, while C. purpurea and C. decemnotata are in grassy upland habitats on clay soils. A number of other species sneak up into the southern reaches of Canada, so they may or may not be in the more northern areas that you’ll be visiting. At any rate, the above should give you an idea of the kinds of habitats to pay attention to.

  2. Steve Willson June 29, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    I remember the Night Gallery version of the earwig legend. The earwig went into the left ear, tunneled through the brain (this took several days, during which the screaming victim was tied down for his own protection) and exited the right ear. Everyone sighed with relief until the doctor picked up the earwig and proclaimed, “It’s a female. She laid her eggs in his brain.” Cue resumed screaming.

    I guess you ought to watch for the large creatures as well as the small.

    • TGIQ June 29, 2010 at 8:13 PM

      Ohhhhh, man. That’s fantasitic, in a horrible way. I’m laughing and squirming at the same time. Gotta love how these stories get around and then persist…makes you wonder if there isn’t a grain of truth in them somewhere…

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