A lot of people come here because other people do. But what really makes this the most fascinating time of summer is the insect life.Despite the peopled cacophony of fireworks and rhetorical wedding music, nighttime is really dominated by the sounds of insects rubbing their legs or wings together. In fact, if more people lived with their windows open, the village would have to field those noise complaints, too.
Which is why, rather than a police department, we have decided to create a common sense department.
A tomato hornworm is about the size of an ape’s index finger, but green, silky bright green. Because it is large and colorful, we cannot understand where it crawled from, as it has made it halfway across the table before someone screams. There is a lot of fancy, showy attire in Sagaponack, but, again, I’d say none of it is as fluid and lovely as this monster’s current incarnation. We scoop him into a box, noting the humor and dexterity of its suction cup feet; someone says, “Aw, he’s cute.”
In the past, I might have squashed this fellow, or tossed him to the chickens; he is listed as a garden pest. However, I have never seen high numbers in the field, and so his presence does not threaten but rather intrigues me. I propose we put him in a cage, keep him fed, and watch the metamorphosis.
My interest in insects is an inherited trait. My parents always pointed them out and explained what they did; the dung beetle in the horse pasture was my first memorable lesson.
So, my mother builds a cage, a nice, spacious one, and stuffs it with edible branches. But, one day a caterpillar, the next a cocoon, and by the time we are ready to transfer him to the new apartment, the hornworm has already begun to spin. He’s rolled a basil leaf around him and affixed himself to the side of the glass jar. He’s no longer green, but as he works, he becomes an unremarkable brownish sack—this transformation in a matter of hours.
And now he “sleeps,” awaiting his sphinx moth form. Which leads us to ponder if the emergent creature with wings will remember being a creature that crawled. A question to which there is no answer.