Sunday, June 22, 2008

Glow Worm Encounters

Friday night the girls and I headed into the city for an outing with the Kiwi Conservation Club, a nature club for kids sponsored by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. We got our Friday night fish 'n chips from our favorite takeaways place in the city, and met the group at the band shell of the Botanic Gardens for a nighttime picnic and hike in the dark.

After we ate, the kids ran around the big lawn with their glow-in-the-dark face paint and torches (flashlights, for those of you back home. See? I'm assimiliating!). Then we were treated to a very informative talk by Dr. George Gibbs, author and professor of entomology at Victoria University. Turns out that the Wellington Botanic Gardens are where glow worms were originally studied and eventually classified as Arachnocampa luminosa or "glowing spider-bug," in the late 1880's. This particular variety is found only in Australia and New Zealand.

After the talk, we went for a walk in the gardens. As we got deeper into the trail, where the trees came together over the path and we could have been in some remote bush rather than smack dab in the heart of the capital city, we turned off our torches. Slowly, out of the dark, tiny little points of yellow-green light started to develop along the banks over-hanging the path on one side, and along the ravine where a creek ran through on the other. It looked like someone had sprinkled the woods with pixie dust!

It was a truly magical sight. I tried to convince the girls that they were the glowing lights from tiny fairy houses, but, alas, they are too old to believe in fairies (insert sound of Tinkerbell hitting the floor). It brought to my mind the fireflies of summer and my childhood in Northern Wisconsin, and I remarked to myself on how vastly different my own childhood was from that of my children's. I never would have guessed that I would be sharing the wonder of bioluminescence with my children in some far off country at the bottom of the world.


Dr. Cathy Ezrailson said...

How wonderful...and magical. To come full circle from childhood. I remember trying to catch fireflies as a very young girl and how beautiful the woods looked "aglow" with thousands of points of light. I loved the idea of tiny fairy cottages lining the banks... if we never too old to believe, Tinkerbell, we might not grow up, no matter hold old we are.
Grandma Cathy

MLW said...

When I look back, I mostly remember Brian ripping the butts off fire flies- then chasing me down and rubbing the glow-y insides all over my arms.
Don't you wish you had an older brother?!

Brandie said...

We can't wait to take the girls on this walk. Thanks for the info!

Oh and while everyone else is talking about it, the first time I saw a lightning bug, I thought someone was walking far off in the woods with a flashlight.

audrey and josh said...

Sounds like an enlightening trip with the girls (pun intended :)). My husband and I are traveling to New Zealand for 6 months starting in August and I've only heard tales of these infamous glowworms... I'm excited to see them face to face!

djm smith said...

Amazing! Sounds like you are adjusting well to live down under. I stumbled upon your blog and I would love some expat advice. I've been offered a job down there. I wonder if Steve could contact me by email. I just have a few quick questions.

thank you!