Sow Bugs

Around here possibly the longest, most in depth topic of study has been sow bugs.  This is probably due to their abundance in our environment.  There are always some sow bugs wandering around in the basement bathroom – occasionally I have to go and find a child who has become engrossed in observing one and forgotten to return.  Periodically a sow bug finds its way into the main floor playroom – sometimes they have been aided by a two legged accomplice.  The majority of the sow bugs live outside in the yard where they belong – and are often collected to live in fancy homes that have been lovingly created for them.

We know a lot about them.  We know they are not insects – they fall in the crustacean family.  We know they are ‘good’ because they feed on dead plant matter and return nutrients to the soil – an important role in the environment. Generally they are accepted, respected and even adored but occasionally they are victims of misfortune.

Last week there had been some intermittent showers which made things in the yard damp.  Collecting the water that had accumulated in various containers was usually the focus of the children’s attention.  One child discovered that the bark that still remained on a few of the logs was now soft and not firmly attached.  It became a group project to remove as much of the bark as possible.  They used sticks as levers to pry the bark off;

There was a moment of stunned silence when the bark was removed and ‘hundreds’ of sow bugs scurried for cover.

Then the mob attacked: bashing bugs with sticks and stomping on them while repeatedly yelling ‘lemonade’. I don’t know why they chose to say ‘lemonade’ when their tone implied that they really meant ‘die, die, die’ except that lemonade sounded ‘nicer’. Then they did it again with another piece of bark;

I was a little perplexed.  The first time I thought maybe it was the surprise of seeing so many sow bugs moving quickly that prompted the attack but now the children were looking for them – expecting there to be sow bugs behind every piece of bark.  They were hunting and the massacres continued.

So I asked them why they suddenly did not like the sow bugs? What did the bugs do to deserve this attack?  The sow bugs had been minding their own business, doing their job, they posed no threat to anyone.

The children looked a little sheepish when I asked these questions.  None of the children answered but one began explaining why the bugs had been behind the bark.  “It is wet.  They like to live in wet places.  It was their home” All the children started picking up pieces of bark and looking for bugs;

One excitedly called the others over to see a ‘baby’ one they had found;

They now engaged in a search and rescue mission.  Locating sow bugs;

Carefully taking them to safe locations;

Reuniting ‘families’.

I’ll admit that I do not like to have sow bugs in my home.  I would not be comfortable having one crawl on me and I may inadvertently kill the odd one.  However, I understand their purpose in the world and I will defend their right to peacefully coexist with the rest of us.  I will stand up for them as I would for any other underdog.

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