With love, from the Bug Expert

Exciting news, my friends! Feeding on Folly is now a celebrated Bug Expert! Here’s how we discovered our lofty new status:

It was chilly Tuesday evening when our Editor said to our Writer, “When was the last time you checked the ol’ blog’s Stat Page?” and our Writer replied, “Shut up. Schitt’s Creek is on.”
So our Editor said, “Oh, for &%$ sake, I’ll do it myself.”
And that’s when she saw this:


It’s not uncommon for FoF to have visitors hailing from Google, Yahoo or, occasionally, something called “Cincinnati Bell” (no idea). But we’d never seen the likes of factrepublic before!
Editor clicked on the link and … hold onto your hats…. saw THIS:


Editor would like it to be known that she did not gasp, whimper, or in any way make a sound implying she was not completely comfortable viewing a 6-legged monster at that precise moment.
Then Reporter entered the room with a bowl of popcorn much too small to share and said, “Oh hey, I recognize that little fella. We wrote a post about him 4 years, 51 weeks and 3 days ago.”
And then Editor, fanning herself because the room had gotten suddenly warm, said, “Did you make enough for everyone?” and Reporter said, “Hey! This bug site is listing us as a source for that beetle! OMG! That’s so hilarious!”
And right away, Editor began devising plans on how to monetize this development and Writer was telling them both to shut up because Moira had just come onscreen in a new wig.

So there it is, my friends. Someone writing about bugs read our post on the Death Watch Beetle and, no doubt impressed by our authoritative style, listed us as a source for their information.

Amazing, but true.

And since the original post was published right around Valentine’s Day nearly five years ago, Editor and Reporter made an executive decision to run it again.

Because while Writer claims her time is taken up primarily with clarinet practice and drawing, we all know better.

(Some changes have been made, because you know how editors are.)

The Tragic Tale of Death Watch Beetle

Most of the time I try to post something happy. Something to make us smile. But this tale came to me recently and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s the tale — the tragic tale — of the Death Watch Beetle.

Cool name, isn’t it? It comes from a time when people died and their body was kept in the home. (Sorry. I told you this wouldn’t be happy.)

As the person was still lying in bed, ill, clinging to life, the family members would be very, very quiet out of respect. This period was called “the death watch.”

And in those times of absolute silence — during the death watch — they would hear a light tapping. Almost like fingers drumming on a table, very faint and rhythmic.

Legend had it that it was Death, drumming his bony fingers, waiting for the person to die.

Pretty cool legend, right?!

Lo and behold, it was actually the mating call of a little beetle. Hereafter called the Death Watch Beetle, scientific name: Xestobium rufovillosum.

This is the life cycle of the Death Watch Beetle (you may want to grab a tissue):

The female lays her eggs in a little hole or crevice in wood. When the little pupa emerges, he starts eating.

He eats wood. He does this for 10 to 15 years.

Years, people! Ten to 15 years!

When he emerges he’s a fully grown adult, about 1/4 inch long and not very pretty. Also, he’s fairly blind.

He only has one task at this point and that is to find a mate and have sex. Quick like, before he dies. Which will be in less than a week.

Since he can’t see much of anything, he bangs his head against the wall and listens, hoping a lonely beetle chick hears him and answers his call by banging her head against the wall. This is how they find each other.

If they find each other – and that’s a big if – he scrambles on top of her and in his eagerness, he might cause both of them to tumble to their death. Or he may miss her all together, on account of how he’s blind. Or he may jump on her the wrong way, not knowing her head from her bum. So she keeps banging her head against the wall, basically saying, “Idiot! This is my face!”

Or — and this is key here, so pay attention — she may reject him! She may decide, “Eh. I’ll see if someone better comes along.”

She’s taking a big risk here, but this is one discerning female. She’d rather die than have sex with a beetle not up to her standards.

And die she will. Very shortly.

So, what can we take away from this sad tale, gentle readers?

  • It puts a different light on our own lives doesn’t it? Whatever we may be experiencing, at least we’re not a Death Watch Beetle. Eating wood for an entire decade, only to be rejected in love and dying as one lonely bug.
  • If reincarnation is a thing, what kind of monstrous act warrants coming back as a Death Watch Beetle? I mean, holy crap, that’s some kind of freakin’ bad karma!
  • When all is said and done, we don’t have it so very bad finding a companion, do we? Granted, I’ve not been in the game for a long while, but geez, even online dating sites are better than banging your head against a wall. Isn’t it?
  • Given some of the men we know with kids, I’d say it’s pretty clear most women do not have the high standards of a female Death Watch Beetle. If you are a hetero-male, let this be a comfort to you. If you are a female, give it some thought. You could do better.

If you’d like to hear the full beetle story as I heard it, Click Here. It’s a 20 minute podcast from RadioLab, and it ends with a fantastic rap piece. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Back to now, Reporter would like it to add another lesson we can learn from this tale:

  • Always check the sources.

Seriously, am I the only who does this? Oh wait – at least two other people do it because that’s how they arrived here. (Good on you, bug geeks!)

But, yeah. Check those sources okay?

Have a lovely Valentine’s Day everyone! ❤️

18 thoughts on “With love, from the Bug Expert

  1. Yes, reproduction survival’, There are so many secrets out there to discover in one lifetime, much less 2 or 3 as some beleive. limitless,,, jc

  2. I am simply agog at a number of items concerning this piece, the main one being that I thought I had read everything in the FoF oeuvre, but I don’t remember this one. (Of course, my shameful consumption of processed foods for nearly five years might be one source for the memory gap. We’ll ignore the drinking and old-age angles for now.)

    And I feel a tad bit bad about all of my complaining over the various decades, as I clearly have nothing to compare to the fate of the Death Watch Beetle. I mean, come ON, the life of the DWB is complete suckage, meaning none of us humans should feel blue, ever again. Perhaps they should share this mandatory tale in school, making it a requirement for high-school graduation. I would imagine it would increase the life-satisfaction factor a considerable amount.

    But I do identify with the first-time mating experience of the DWB, as I was also essentially blind and I banged my head on the wall a lot. So there’s that… 😉

    1. Hmm… I’m reasonably sure I saw a comment from you on the original but as I recall, it was brief and nondescript. No doubt it was in the early part of our blogging relationship, when we admired each other chastely, from afar.

      You’ve really hit on something with the need of spreading this tale to high school students. I shall canvas my neighborhood immediately, preaching good news to the lost and forsaken. 😉

    1. Trust me, I sympathize with your plight. Really I do. Even so, I confess my main concern is in getting females to show more discretion with whose genes they are advancing. The fate of humanity is at stake! 😉
      Happy Valentines day back atchya!

    1. Okay, leave it to you to not only give us a pun to groan over, but make us reflect on the nutritional aspect and eventual… um… muscular enhancement derived from chomping wood.

      Well done, Dave. Well done.

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