Campaign diary: a grasshopper in the sun shows me the way | Insects



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IIf you are given a treasure map, you feel compelled to follow it, especially when the treasure is a rare flower and the clues on the map are so alluring. This is how I found myself in a chilly early morning, following a dry uphill valley, ignoring a cart track as advised, over a broken fence and through a thick stand of hawthorns, where I would stop and look for a improbable detail: walk in a dry stone wall.

Beyond there was a cliff, and between me and the void, a rich bank of flowers: St. John’s Wort and sweet roses, knapweed and thistle, a meadow pea and a wild privet, a yarrow tinged with pink and rose darker oregano. A treasure chest, but not the jewel I was looking for. There were larks singing behind my back and song thrushes far below, their music bubble rising from the woods still hidden in the shadows at the base of the rock. I walked over to the edge, because that’s where a lot of the world seems to be these days, and I scanned the ground: nothing.

Except, not nothing. It’s true, I got trapped in the search for a goal and berated myself a bit for it. But while I was hunting, my concentration had sharpened and I had become unusually attentive. This is how I spotted the grasshopper crouching in a tuft of heather mulch at my feet.

The dim sunlight had marked his head and the pronotum, the plate-like structure just behind the head. It was the color of limes, fringed with a paler border along its keel where it curved around the body, but with vertical chocolate stripes on either side towards the back. The whole was faceted, like a jewel. I saw a beaded wing protrude at a right angle, which looked odd. Grasshoppers are cold-blooded, so maybe this one was warming up for the day.

But then it was gone and I got up to stretch. At that moment, out of the corner of my eye, I saw what I had come for: a low plant with unmistakable flowers caught in the sun on the edge of the abyss.


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