Nocturnal Hunt

Illustration by CATHERINE STRAUS

I have a small vegetable and herb garden at the back of my house in Houston, which includes a couple of basil plants. They were doing very well until I noticed that huge chunks were being gouged out of the leaves. I know from experience that the best time to find culprits in a garden is at night, so after I returned from a very uplifting choral concert, I grabbed my flashlight and headed for the sleeping garden behind my house. Sure enough, there it was, a huge, long, black insect, caught in flagrante delicto, devouring my ever-shrinking basil plant. I raced into my garage for a pair of garden gloves and a disposable container, cut off the leaf it was enjoying, and dropped the intruder in.

I did not want to kill it, after all. It was just busy doing what it was born to do. I consulted the online oracle and saw that I was dealing with a California Timema, related to the walking stick insect. The larger female spends most of her life carrying around the smaller male on her back (that may sound all too familiar to some women who read this), dropping her eggs as she goes, which stay in the ground through the winter and hatch in the spring. I think that I had found the female because she was very large. But what to do with her?

I came up with the perfect solution. It was well past midnight by this point, so I slipped down the block to the house of a man whom I know treats his girlfriend very badly. With no compunction at all, I tipped out the Timema into the soft and fragrant foliage of his herb garden wishing her bon appetit, feeling pleased that not only had I avoided taking a life, but I’d also delivered symbolic justice on someone who well deserved it.

By Susan P. Blevins of Houston, TX.

This article was published originally in 2016, in GreenPrints Issue #108.


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