AN insect reflects on ghoulish happenings…

It is early May. I have climbed the gritstone wall at the bottom of the garden to a sunny spot. I gaze over my favourite part of the garden. Areas where nature is allowed to flourish border the functional vegetable patch. Pumpkin seeds grow under cloches. In time, their vines will mingle with wilder areas of the garden and the thorns of neglected ornamental roses. As the nights lengthen, in the autumn, humans will harvest the fruits only to return them to their doorsteps to ward off evil spirits with carved grisly faces and burning eyes. My mind has been fuzzy of late.

It was on a rose that my life began. A cluster of bright yellow eggs, contrasting harshly with the greens of the leaf. Mum chose this spot as the aphids, my favourite food, were beginning to multiply near by. Aphids seem to appear out of nowhere, as having biological tricks at their disposal speeds up reproduction. Males are not essential for the female aphid to produce young. As they give birth they become a mother, grandmother and great grandmother all at once with subsequent generations growing inside each other like the nesting dolls that the young children play with on their picnic blanket in the garden. For me aphids make a plentiful and palatable generational soup - nature’s treat. Of course, before I developed a taste for aphids I snacked on one or two of my younger siblings. Cannibalism gives you that head start in life.

I grew well, pupated and survived the harshness of winter in the hollow of a pumpkin stem. I had been warned about the underhand tactics of some of the locals. A few weeks back I let my guard down. Dinocampus coccinellae, a parasitic wasp just a few millimetres long, crept up from behind and gave me a sharp scratch with its ovipositor - nature’s trick. For weeks, my insides felt weird. They would wriggle around on their own accord and then pause, like a caterpillar taking a break to moult, before churning again. The urge to climb became stronger and stronger, something was controlling my thoughts.

On the wall my decline continues. A wasp larvae bursts from my stomach. There it weaves a cocoon in which it will pupate. I have the urge to protect the pupa and I wrap my legs around it. Day after day, my red back and seven black spots provide protection as predators heed the warning signs as they know that I taste bad. Finally, my parasite flies free. Yet I remain one zombie among many.