Posted by: Silver | August 31, 2010

Bug Patrol

When I first discovered that there was a WWOOF host in Dawson City, I must confess to having wondered what on earth one could possibly grow that far north and, more to the point, why anyone would even want to try, given the harshness of the climate. The answer to the first question was impressively demonstrated to me in all its variety while I was there; one of the answers to the second only really came home to me when I arrived on the far more clement islands of Haida Gwaii and was introduced to the delicate lace-like structures that were once my host’s brassicas. You see, the far north may boast an abundance of blood-sucking bugs, but the harsh winters ensure that plant pests are kept to a minimum. Not a benefit enjoyed by Haida Gwaii…

And so, one of my main tasks during my placement in Tlell was getting rid of caterpillars, by any and all means possible (the more squeamish amongst you may want to look away now…) First though, I had to come to terms with the fact that, in Canada it seems, caterpillars are often referred to as ‘worms’. To me, worms are nothing other than the helpful, soil-building annelids prized by all organic growers, so I had to endure a moment or two of confusion and bewilderment at apparently being asked to exterminate such beneficial creatures before clarification came and the Battle of the Bugs began.

The WWOOFer on the farm next door evidently took great delight in trying to gross people out by demonstrating that his favoured method of disposal was personal consumption. Being a vegetarian, however, I declined to join him and instead delegated the slightly un-vegetarian task of final dispatch to the flock of chickens at the bottom of the garden; I merely collected them, still live and wriggling.

I say ‘merely’, but actually, the battle between man and worm is not quite as uneven as it might appear. Initially, I wondered why evolution had produced black caterpillars, which were so easy to spot on (what was left of) the green leaves. But then I tried to pick one up. The instant it sensed danger, it released its hold on the leaf and plummeted to obscurity on the (black) soil below. And not just a straightforward, easy-to-follow vertical drop either, but a genuinely impressive dive-plus-commando-style-roll manoeuvre that took it in a random direction away from where you would expect it to be. Of course, I quickly learned to position the collecting tub under the black ones before moving in for the ‘kill’, but I couldn’t help feeling slightly guilty about the fact that – as they plopped neatly into the container – they probably thought they had escaped…



  1. sounds like you are continuning to enjoy some interesting and novel activities and meeting some good folks along the way. been busy – America and now York! continue to enjoy you spirited filly you! x

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