This morning, Gaston and I listened to the CBC Quirks & Quarks podcast in which Bob MacDonald interviews the York U researcher who had determined the clock-work timing of a wood-thrush species’ migration. Every fall, on the exact same day of the year, from year to year, the birds begin their migration south. And every spring, on the same day, from year to year, they arrive north in Canada from their southern wintering grounds.
During our hike through the Razès countryside this afternoon, we encountered another variety of precision animal timing. Today was the day that the fig wasps in the region swarmed. Fig wasps are very small, black insects that don’t bite or sting and are pretty much harmless. They are essential to pollinating fig blossoms, however, and the females lay their eggs on figs, which provide delectable and sweet nourishment to the wasp larvae when they hatch.
We walked through the first swarm we encountered, and discovered that they are attracted to light colours. Gaston was wearing grey; I—lucky me—was sporting a white t-shirt. I was covered. They were on my hat, in my hair, in my ears, on my neck, and—despite the strap of my backpack pressing the neck of my shirt to my skin—down my shirt. ick. I managed to pick all of them off of me and out of my cleavage, but spent the next two hours of the walk fighting the psychological itchy-scratchies.
We avoided subsequent swarms after that.
It was a clear, clear day, but drifts, rivers, clouds, tornadoes of milling, swarming wasps billowed and streamed above the landscape.
And, as it is fig season, the smell of ripe figs perfumes the air.