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Beetle Life Underfoot

September 5th, 2021 by Michael Dyet

But solitude is only a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot; every choice is a world made new for the chosen.

Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer

Hmmm, perhaps it is past time for us to catch up on the protection side of our thunderous impact on the natural world.

The quotation at the head of this post is my favourite opening line to a novel by one of my all-time favourite authors. There is so much wisdom and insight packed into it that I could write pages on the embedded meaning.

It came to mind today as I was looking at the caterpillar photograph, at the top of this post, which I took yesterday while on a nature hike. I looked it up online and determined that it is a White-Marked Tussock Moth caterpillar.

I have not paid much attention to caterpillars in my ramblings in pursuit of winged wonders. But perhaps I should do so. The exquisite markings of this caterpillar and the feathery hairs in which it is covered make it quite striking. Interestingly, the moth that it will eventually become is a rather nondescript off-white colour that lacks distinguishing marks.

I occasionally get these reminders of what I might be missing as I march along with tunnel vision. How much beetle life underfoot is passing unnoticed as the relative thunder of my footsteps sends miniature creatures scuttling for cover?

I could easily have missed this Lance-tipped Darner if it had not taken wing when I walked past its original perch. This particular species of Darner often perches low in the grass effectively camouflaged and hidden from view. I had to search for a minute or two to locate this one even though I saw where it dropped down.

Darners are one of the largest dragonflies and a personal favourite of mine. But how many have I walked past oblivious to their presence because I was simply was not paying attention to the hidden world where they live?

You would think it would be hard to miss this swarm of Whirligig Beetles frolicking about on the surface of a pond. But I did not notice them until I was at the edge of the pond scanning for dragonflies. They were going about their frantic business in plain view but camouflaged by their size and their dark colour.

There is a whole universe of beetle life underfoot in every acre of meadow or marsh or woodland. I have no doubt been thunder to it countless times.

It is not too much a stretch to suggest that beetle life underfoot is a metaphor for how wilfully unaware we too often are of our impact on nature. We are the creature with the most potential to both protect and to harm the natural world. We have done more than our share of harm. We have a lot of catching up to do on the protecting side of the equation.

~ Now Available Online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo or Barnes & Noble: Hunting Muskie, Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet

~ Michael Robert Dyet is also the author of Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel which was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

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