Something really awful happened yesterday. Our cats are great ratters, and one of them (I presume) had dragged a fairly large but scrawny rat out of the barn and left it on the patio.(Not the same rat in the picture).
Because of the stored animal feed, we have a constant supply of rats and squirrels around the barn (and sometimes possums).
I didn’t realize anything was out of the ordinary until i heard Clothilde shouting, “Mama, come look! Come look now! Is that a bot fly?” (They know about these things, being the grandchildren of an Entomologist)
I came over and saw a huge, black maggot the size of my thumb crawling away from the rat. I looked closer and saw two more massive maggots wiggling in the rat’s face. It’s ear was a detached flap of skin hanging over the naked skull, with one maggot plugged inside. The other was burrowed in the throat. You could see it had eaten around the exposed esophagus. The rat was still alive and trembling.
Sorry, Halloween. Fake spiders – not scary. Most real spiders are not even scary. I have lots of them in and around my house. Giant black maggots eating something’s face off? I’m the daughter of an entomologist, and this gives me nightmares.
All the cats and dogs were hovering around, so i killed the one maggot that was crawling away (it was very hard to squish) and used a shovel to move the rat into the woods. I should have killed it, but i couldn’t. But i was afraid of these maggots. What if this happened to my animals? I used 2 sticks like chop sticks and picked them out and squashed them so they wouldn’t become more. I felt so unclean, like myself and my land was polluted by these evil, horrific things. The rat i left in a soft leaf pile. I looked for it a little later and it had died so i buried it.
I told my dad, the Entomologist Explorer that evening. Predictably, he didn’t sympathize with how gross i thought it was. He said, “Those are really cool!” Apparently he knows someone who studied their life cycle. (This is a guy who got excited about my mom’s case of head lice years ago, and even “collected” an impressively large female he still has floating in a phial of alcohol in the bathroom).
Then he went on to explain that they are specific to rodents and wouldn’t hurt my other animals at all. In fact, they are helping control the rat population.
I felt so bad. In my ignorance i though i was protecting everyone to kill them. These gross maggots are my allies, keeping the rodents who carry disease and damage feed and crops in balance. They were protecting us and i killed them.
Nature is like that. Sometimes she is kind and beautiful, and sometimes she is maggots. There is a balance to things, all things have their place, and even well-meaning actions can be harmful.
And I’ll admit that sometimes out here i feel a little over-exposed to nature.