Insects and the predators who prey on them are never more active than during the summer months, when they transform backyards into killing fields of carnage. Most of the gore goes unnoticed as we tend the garden, mow the lawn, barbecue or sit and read in the serenity of our backyards.
Typically we only notice what bites, stings or crawls on us. But for those who tune in to the overall web of life and watch closely, critters in the yard are engaged in real life-and-death drama with nothing less than survival of the day on the line. Tomorrow is another battle, but for life in the food chain, it is one day — or one moment — at a time.
Watch and think about the needs and the perils of the critters in your outdoor space. In early summer, many critters are hunting for little ones in the nest or den, as well as for their own nutritional needs.
Small birds dropping down onto the ground are finding seeds or the smallest of insects. Midsize birds are foraging for larger insects and worms. I’ve often admired the aerial acrobatics of flying insects and birds chasing them as they weave and dart in and out of bushes and structures. A combat fighter pilot would be awed by the skills and capabilities of the little flying critters engaged in hunting or evading.
We see “bluebelly” lizards by the score in our backyards during the summer and fall months. They spend much of their time sunning themselves on flat, sun-drenched surfaces such as brick walls or planters, but when they do hunt, they are effective prowlers who take their share of insects and worms.
Life in the food chain is grisly, but we try not to think about it that way. We know it is a bite or sting, shred or gulp struggle on a daily basis. Positioned loftily at the top of the food chain, people can easily ignore the constant struggle to stay alive that goes on around us.
But if you watch critters closely and think about their daily lives, your perspective on life will change. The lesson it teaches me is that life for most critters is tenuous and ever so precious. It gives me a sense of appreciation for being at the top of the food chain. But it also makes me think about being prepared to survive and provide for my family should the ability to simply go to the store be suddenly removed.
Should we really teach children to look at life and at the food chain in this fashion? Should children be taught what to do if grocery store shelves suddenly become empty in the wake of a disaster? How to take their place in the food chain and what is safe to eat? These are tough questions.
I believe our children deserve to be taught to survive. It begins with teaching them to see and understand the food chain in our backyards, as my Dad thoughtfully taught me. That’s my opinion. What’s yours?
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.