I seem to have a daddy longlegs, or crane fly, resident in my bedroom at the moment, which makes me nervous.
I am not too fond of insects in general, let alone insects with huge gangly legs that remind me of spiders, of which I am terrified. If you ever hear me screaming my head off in my own home, it could of course be that I’ve found a corpse in the cupboard, but it will be far more likely that I’ve simply come across a spider, or a cockroach.
Luckily cockroaches are not so common in UK homes, but I grew up in a hot country in South America and spent my entire childhood traumatised by the possibility of a chance encounter with a scurrying roach in the middle of the night, as I step into the kitchen for a drink of water. Woken by my bloodcurdling screams, a bleary-eyed dad would come to my rescue, unceremoniously flatten the roach with the sole of his slippers and send me back to bed.
As a child, I used to think my dad was pretty pathetic about most things, but that was one rare moment when my chest filled with pride for him: dad was a hell of a roach killer.
I apologise to any animal lovers reading this, who think killing insects just because they are ugly is a sacrilege, but cockroaches are vile. What was Kafka thinking when he wrote Metamorphosis?
When I moved in with my (now ex-)husband, before we married, I found out his house was full of spiders. He used to tease me saying they were a sign of good luck. They weren’t. In my heart of hearts, I knew it was a bad omen…that the house was so full of something I didn’t like.
The spiders would always appear at the most inconvenient moments, such as when I was having a shower and could not run away from the scene. Upon hearing what he called my “spider scream” my husband would eventually turn up, laughing, with an empty glass jar to trap the spider in and empty it outside the house. His method was more humane than my father’s slippers, but when I was alone in the house, I resorted to death by suction…more specifically the hoover.., while praying they would not later resuscitate and crawl out of the hoover bag for a Second Coming.
I no longer live with a husband nor any other male, so I am grateful my new flat has, so far, been relatively creepy crawly-free. I am not saying insect removal is a man’s job but, let us just say if I was checking profiles on an internet dating site, one listing “ability to get rid of insects that scare the daylights out of me” would definitely get extra brownie points. Put a spider in front of me and gender equality goes out of the window.
My resident daddy longlegs has just flown a couple of times over my laptop to remind me to come back to my main point, which is about him…Or her? It is such a ridiculously clumsy flier, it nearly crash-landed on my keyboard. It makes me shudder to think I could have accidentally squashed it with my typing fingers and have to fish its dangling legs out from the gap between two letters.
I knew naught about daddy longlegs until a few days ago I learned from a friend that these long-legged flies only live for a few days, or was it hours, and don’t bite humans despite looking like giant mosquitoes.
Having discovered they have such short lives, I no longer have the heart to cut its lifespan even shorter just because its long legs make me uncomfortable. So I let it live, I let it fly around my bedroom while I nervously watch, let it sleep (sleep?) on my wall. It has been around for almost a week now, so it can’t be long till its expiration date. I will probably wake up one day to find it dead on my floor, its legs shrivelled up, no longer looking so menacing.
I googled and found this BBC article from 2006 with the title: “What’s the point of daddy longlegs?”, which is exactly what I was thinking. With only days to live, what is the point indeed? Apparently, they are “an important source of food for birds and spiders” and “their larvae also eat decaying plant material and help to recycle nutrients back into the soil.” And, yes, they do die a few days after mating.
I have no way of knowing whether my resident daddy longlegs has already found a partner to mate with. If it hasn’t, will it die mateless anyway? And would that be the equivalent of dying as a spinster..or worse..a virgin?!
My bedroom is not exactly a singles’ bar for flies of any kind, so I do hope it is not wasting its short life away, stuck to my wall, dreaming of the day it will get lucky. Okay, I do that too, but I have a few more years to live, and, who knows, I may still find geriatric love in some old people’s home?
Resident daddy longlegs, I have spared you from deadly slippers and suffocating hoover bags so you could enjoy your fast-track life to the full. Go find your mate, go lay your eggs so you can leave your mark on earth. If you must die so soon, may you die happy, having known a sense of completion.
It made me think: how much more intensely would one have to experience life if we too only had weeks to live. I probably wouldn’t be moping about, wondering what went wrong, crying over things that cannot be changed.
We are spoiled for having such a long lifespan.
Daddy longlegs, I salute you.