Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Case For Hibernation

I don't have anything against winter, but hibernation seems like a terrific idea to me. I am really attracted to any protocol that involves major gluttony followed by tremendous sloth. Pride, envy, greed, lust, and wrath have no hold on me. But them other two rock.

Give me that whole bear routine. The idea is to eat as much as one possibly can and then sleep it off for months. Oh, this checks all the boxes. I would give it a shot, even though I know I'd run the risk of spending four months looking for the classroom I never attended in order to take the final exam, or racing through the airport to make my flight, or not being able to find a clean private toilet to poop in.

What I wasn't aware of was that ladybugs hibernate also. Many of them gorge themselves as fall approaches, which I find disturbing, because they do not have the benefit of stretch pants. Nevertheless they apparently start packing on the micrograms and then get together in a big heap with thousands of their little friends, like a pile of puppies, to sleep it off and sit out the winter. I'm not sure what the angle is. As far as I'm aware, ladybugs do not generate heat metabolically. So the bottom ladybug in a pile of cold ladybugs is still cold. Perhaps they just like company.

Ladybugs are also called Lady Beetles but not by anyone I know. Probably only entomologists. Because entomologists know ladybugs aren't bugs, they're beetles. Hell, everyone knows that, but we're still going to call them ladybugs. Entomologists should let a loop out every now and then. Knowledge can be a curse. It's like how I keep trying to tell everyone that "iris" is not the plural of "iris" but I never get anywhere, and I'm the only one unhappy. Nobody cares and I shouldn't either.

What's more interesting is why the beetles are "lady" anything. Evidently in the Middle Ages--so goes the tale--crops were failing right and left and the people prayed to the Virgin Mary for help, and she sprinkled ladybugs over the good Catholic farms. The insects scarfed down the aphids and all was saved. That's just the kind of thing God and his staff will do for the properly reverent. And the people called their saviors the Beetles Of Our Lady. And larded the original story up with supporting religious hoo-ha, to wit: the red beetle represents the cloak of the Virgin and the black spots are her joys and sorrows. That's a lot of significance to heap on a small insect, but in case they get too full of themselves they can fly to Poland, where they're known as "God's little cows."

Some time before the slumber party the female ladybugs lay eggs near a big food source such as my broccoli crop, which went gray with aphids this year. The stated reason is to give their larvae a better chance to find food. More likely, they're completely stuffed full of aphids themselves and they can barely get off the sofa to fly. Although it all works out the same.

What ladybugs do in a heap over winter is not actually called hibernation, but "diapause," which any entomologist would not be able to prevent himself from telling you. Basically they just push the pause button. (You get a ladybug in peridiapause, she'll be cranky for years.)

Ladybugs have made a nuisance of themselves in the course of their overwintering by congregating on the siding of light-colored houses and finding their way inside, where they warm up, wake up, and spew stinky yellow goo out of their knee-balls over anyone with a disciplinary broom or vacuum. In the course of reading about this I learned that they "are of special consternation to those who are entomophobic," meaning they really creep out people who are afraid of bugs. Who writes this shit? Entomologists? Anyway there are some ways of preventing an infestation. Simply seal all cracks, crevices, and openings in your entire house that are larger than a tiny beetle. And repaint your house. Done!

Well, none of this is as appealing as being a fat marmot snoozing away in a burrow in one of the prettiest places on earth, but it's a living. And there's a lot to recommend it. Fact is, the world would be a better place if we all left it alone for a few months every year.

32 comments:

  1. I learned quite a bit with this post and I am a Master Gardener. Maybe you should come talk to our group?

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    1. I could talk to any group, but that is because I am a master of digression.

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  2. Funny how people will ascribe ladybugs eating all the aphids or a sports victory to "God"... this same "God" who did absolutely nothing to prevent slavery or the holocaust, although I'm sure that many people prayed to him to deliver them from these atrocities. What, he only handles the inconsequential things?

    Hibernation sounds good. I love sleeping (unfortunately, since menopause, I do it fitfully and sometimes not at all) and especially dreaming. Dreaming is getting to do stuff while not expending any energy. Cool! I have a number of toilet dreams, too, but in my case I can never find a toilet with any privacy. Always people milling about.

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    1. God's got other planets to tend. And the people who might have prayed for those other things weren't the same kind of important. Apparently.

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    2. God love me but not my neighbor is how the whole God thing works.

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    3. Perhaps we're all still too far down on his ginormous "to-do" list. Or else he's hibernating (*~*)

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    4. Now, I LOVE the idea of God hibernating.

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  3. I have always been a strong supporter of hibernation. It is a common practice among our local bears and some smaller furry critters. Party on until it's time for bed. Just the thought of it makes me smile, relax, and yawn.

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    1. This dear, old house we moved to five years ago harbors overwintering ladybugs. We were more amazed and charmed than alarmed that first Spring to find them crawling down walls or plopping from the ceiling. As an aging Early Boomer parent, I am naturally steeped in Sesame Street, so I suffer for weeks each year from from “The Ladybug Picnic” earworm.

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    2. Don't know that one, and I'm not going to look it up!

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    3. Go on, you know you want to. It's a fun song.

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  4. Insomnia is a facet of my life. I wonder whether I would be pleased to wake up months early or grumpy.

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  5. I used to work with marmots, trying to work out some of the details about how they got so fat and how they made it through the winter. This was back in the 1990's, but one of those papers is still my most cited publication, and even gets cited once or twice a year still.

    One of the things that I learned about them is that, unlike bears, they are "true hibernators". In other words, they drop their body temps to just a few degrees above freezing, and take a long time to both get to that state and to rouse out of it. You can hold a hibernating marmot in your hands, look into his beady little eyes and just know that he would really like to tear into you for disturbing his sleep, but he just can't move until he gets his body temp back up near normal. Which is a good thing, because at full speed and regular body temps, they can really rip you a new one.

    The other interesting thing, at least to me, is that they actually don't sleep all winter. They wake up every 10-12 days or so. So that they can pee. Metabolizing fat will generate a lot of water, and even a hibernating marmot has to wake up every once in a while and empty that bladder.

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    1. Neat! I didn't know they were vicious. This is what I want to be reincarnated as. So I guess I'll have to learn to do more than glare.

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    2. Not really vicious unless they feel cornered.

      Kinda like the rest of us...

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    3. So I am like a marmot when I get up every few hours to pee. I love research!

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    4. You're a little furry too, right?

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  6. Full of lols, as is often the case - thanks, Murr!

    I rescued an Asian ladybug from our sink yesterday and thought it was dead, but, just in case, I put it on a small piece of paper towel. The next day, lo and behold, there it was, wiggling one leg, trying to walk. Now I won't want to flush ANY bug down the sink, just in case it's not dead yet.

    I know -- that has nothing to do with hibernation. I digress frequently, too.

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    1. If you are a master of digression and segue, you don't have to know much about anything.

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  7. Dr Sheldon Cooper to Dr Raj Koothrapali: "You're afraid of women and afraid of bugs. Ladybugs must render you catatonic." (The Big Bang Theory)
    Ladybugs lay their eggs near a good supply of food because the newly hatched larvae actually eat more aphids than the adult ladybugs. BTW, we Aussies call them ladybirds. Well, some of us do.
    I could hibernate all year round, with brief periods of stuffing myself in between the sleeps. I've gotten so lazy since retiring.

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    1. Boy, if the entomologists roll their eyes at people calling them ladyBUGS, they must tear their hair out over you Aussies calling them ladyBIRDS. Probably upsets the ornithologists as well.

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    2. Except Ladybird Johnson

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    3. I was totally going to work in a Lady Bird Johnson joke in there somewhere but it didn't make the cut.

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  8. Wow, looking for the classroom of the course I never took to take the final exam. That is one of my recurring nightmares. Followed closely with wandering the aisles of work, looking for my disappearing desk, wondering what I'm supposed to be doing, who my boss is, and why my salary check never arrives.

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    1. I think we might have a clue why the check never arrives.

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    2. Isn't it interesting, though, that we both have the final exam dream, even though neither of us was nervous about tests or school in general in real life?

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  9. Same here. I've been having the final exam dream for decades. (Also the being naked at school or later on, work, one...haven't had that one since I retired). I've also had the "late for work and keep having obstacles to getting there" dream for years. (Kind of takes the place of your catching a plane one). After I retired, it was the "I have to give a presentation tomorrow and haven't even started working on it" one for awhile. And yes, always the unavailable or unusable bathroom dream!

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  10. Back to your original post, I agree on hibernation. I hate winter, hate cold, hate darkness. As soon as winter starts I kind of stop going out anywhere if I can help it! I become a hermit. If I could sleep through it, I would!

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