Searching for Jerusalem Crickets (Again)

 

Today’s blog about Jerusalem rekindled my nostalgia for Jerusalem crickets (aka potato bugs) and my adventures as a Bouverie docent.  So, I’m resurrecting one of my earlier Andy’s Corner posts (from 9/26/2017) where the Jerusalem cricket plays a central role.  As a post script, I’ve included three photos from my most recent Bouverie hiking season.   

Blogging to the Beat of a Different Drummer: Searching for Jerusalem Crickets (first published 9/26/2017)

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Jerusalem Cricket (also known as a Potato Bug) recently found in our flowerbed.

When our Sonos sound system is amped up playing the same song over and over by every artist imaginable (thanks Spotify!) I know that another blog topic is cooking in Ann’s head.   It’s become a game of sorts between us;  I will ask what the music relates to and she will say “what do you think?”  So, when the lyrics “Jerusalem! Jerusalem!” started booming throughout the house recently, the game was on.  “Potatoes?” was what came to mind first.  After all, the “Jerusalem cricket” is what I called a “potato bug” when I was growing up.  Of course, I had to play my own competing “music” (actually drumming) of a potato bug.  

Here it is:

Just for the record, Jerusalem crickets are not really crickets nor do they have anything to do with potatoes and they are not bugs.  As a kid I was both fascinated and repulsed by these fierce looking creatures that lived under rocks in my back yard.  I still get a strange thrill when I come across one of these bad boys.

My retirement status has provided me with an opportunity to return to my childhood obsession with critters that live under rocks.  It gave me time for docent training at Bouverie in Glen Ellen,  a 500 acre preserve devoted to educating young children about the natural world.   Most important for me is that I now get to poke around under rocks with 3rd and 4th grade kids looking for potato bugs, among other things, and not be considered a weirdo. Although being a docent is a kick, I have to admit that after nearly 40 years of teaching university students, the transition to dealing with these munchkins has been eye-opening, if not humbling.

Bouverie Sign

Let me say at the outset that my admiration for grammar school teachers has increased tenfold (nay, a hundredfold) since I started doing classroom presentations at grammar schools prior to the students’ visits to the preserve.  Trying to convince 25 to 30 3rd or 4th graders that Bouverie is a cool place is a very different animal than lecturing about symbolic interactionism to a classroom of university students.  

Just dealing with their unbounded energy, curiosity, and figidigity (my own word) is a challenge in itself. Trying to tell them about the rattle snakes, newts, and turret spiders that they may encounter on the hike is an even greater challenge.   A question like “Have you ever seen a blue-bellied fence lizard?” inevitably brings a sea of waving hands, each attached to a kid with a breathless story about the lizards in the back yard or when an uncle caught one or when the cat brought one into the house.  

I was stopped in the middle of one of my presentations when a girl put her head on her desk and started to sob while another girl patted her back saying “it will be ok.”  She told the teacher that one of the little boys had bitten her during recess.  Finding no incriminating tooth marks on the girl the teacher let it pass.  This sort of thing was not covered in my docent training manual.

The real reward for all of this comes at the preserve on hiking days.  Each docent takes up to 5 kids and an adult chaperone on the preserve trails, letting them stop and examine everything from the marvelous harvester ants to the amazing oak galls found on fallen leaves.   Their excitement when coming across red-bellied newts or banana slugs on a drizzly day is contagious.  And you never know what they will come up with.  I was taking a group up a relatively steep path leading to “Cougar Pond” when one of them asked if they could take a breather.  Sure, I said, and they all immediately plopped down in the middle of the path, crossed their legs, closed their eyes and began to do the “uhmmmmmm”s of meditation. That was not covered in the training manual either.

One of my greatest pleasures, though,  is when the children are crouched around me watching as I cautiously turn over a rock and I hear their gasps when they come face to face with a Jerusalem cricket.   It’s just like being a kid again, only better.        

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Post Script:  Here are photos of some of my Jerusalem cricket hunters from the Bouverie spring 2019 hiking season:

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El Verano Elementary, Sonoma – April 11

Bouverie Hike 2

Meadow Elementary, Petaluma – April 23

 

Bouverie hike spring 2019 Prestwood Elementary

Prestwood Elementary, Sonoma – May 21

 

2 Comments

  1. Sheree says:

    Ewww! I remember those alien-looking potato bugs as a kid growing up in Southern California. My mother often made me leave my shoes outside after a long day of exploring the neighborhood. I was scarred for life after finding one in my shoe the next morning, so much so that 50 years later I still shake them out before putting them on.

    I think it is wonderful Andy the time you spend with the 3rd and 4th graders. That age group is so much fun and who knows you might be the influence of a career path in Entomology :-D.

    Like

    • theRaggedys says:

      Thanks for the comment. Although never finding one in my shoe, I have always been somewhat intimidated by potato bugs. And as for influencing career paths for 3rd and 4th graders, I am aiming more for encouraging a career in Sociology to study why some people are afraid of creepy things living under rocks.

      Like

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