Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Why Insects Glow
In 1968, I was studying insect behavior in Chicago, the site of the Democratic National Convention, and decided it would be abruptly prudent to conduct my studies from a further remove. Twenty four hours later, I was, for no particular reason or offense that I recall, in San Antonio --with a strange sense of relief at no longer being where I was not.
The City Of San Antonio, Texas, was at that time celebrating its 250th anniversary by hosting the Hemisfair. Hemisfair was a play upon the word, hemisphere. It was a celebration of whatever half of the world America was friends with at the time. It was a good fair! I especially remember slow-moving elevated trams and a sculpture garden that invited relaxation. But my entomological inquiries always drew me back to the Paseo del Rio. With the Alamo at my back and the river before me, I saw fireflies.
Fireflies are insects that glow because of a phenomenon called bioluminescence, manifested by creatures that grow to adulthood around little flashlights. A few days later, I was in Sabinal, a town of fewer ecological challenges along the Sabinal River, and there were even more fireflies, everywhere --especially over wet lawns at night. I got swarmed. My next memory is of waiting for a bus outside a diner in Hondo, watching a tumbleweed tumble slowly from one horizon to the opposite horizon and disappear over it.
I was on a bus, a series of buses, heading back to California, confident my studies would continue. Fireflies had identified me as a safe host and infested my person. They knew I would not paw and snap at them like a kitten --despite my practice of rolling around on the rug while batting a ball of yarn. They accompanied me to my home state and intermarried with other insects. Results may be consulted in Normaphoto over this essay. In conclusion, I am certain insects glow because they possess metabolic reservoirs of chemical radiance, but I am even more certain they glow because they like me.