Saturday, April 17, 2010

Whatever happened to...

My wife Kate and I have been hitting the gardening with a vengeance, catching up on the weeds and some pruning that got away from us. Rain + heat = lots of weeds. Whilst taking a break with a coffee, we watched a rosella and a honeysucker (as Elliot calls them) sucking nectar out of the red flowering gum, followed by a blue and black butterfly skimming over the blossoms. This prompted Kate to remark that you don’t see many butterflies these days, which initiated a discussion as to how things were different from when we were children.

It caused both of us to ask what’s happened to…

Christmas Beetles:

 When we were kids it was part of Christmas that there was an abundance of Christmas beetles. These days you don’t even see one. Where have they gone? What’s happened to them? They were on the paths, the fly screens (and almost impossible to get off), and if you didn’t find the live ones you could find plenty of the iridescent shells.


 It wasn’t summer unless you were driven to distraction by the incessant sound of cicadas, loud and long. As kids we collected them: Black Princes, Green Grocers, Double Drummers… When was the last time you heard one?


 Aussie gardens always had a proliferation of the orange and black butterflies. They were as common a feature when we were kids as the hydrangeas against the front wall of the house and the sign Emoh Ruo at the letterbox. When was the last time you saw one?


 Even though they were a pain in the backside, any light attracted a multitude (what is the collective term for moths? Flutter? Plague? Flight?) of moths. Heaps of them fluttering around an external light bulb. Then someone invented the insect killing machine so that the sound of the Beatles and the Easybeats from the tapedeck at barbeques was interspersed with ZZZZZTT ZZZTTT as another moth, fly or mosquito was sent to insect Heaven. How many moths do you see now when you put on the outside light,, and aren’t they smaller?


When I was a lad, getting swooped on by nesting magpies when going to school or going to the shop was a constant risk. We were told that they did this when with young chicks in the nest but that didn’t improve the situation. Maggies and Butcher birds (the ones with the yellow beaks) were the most common birds around. Now I can’t recall seeing a mapie or Willy Wagtail in tears.


Another common bird when I was younger, even in the suburbs. If you didn’t see them you would still hear their laugh. Not now though.

So what’s the answer? Are they still as prolific and I am less observant, or do other readers share my thoughts? Have gardens changed such that we no longer plant and grow what attracted them? Are they being eaten by birds more than in the past? Is it part of global warming?

I would appreciate any answers and thoughts.

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