Give life a chance to avoid a horror story


Figwort - Credit: Steve Jones

STOP. Do not read this if you scare easily. This is a horror story.

Once upon a time in a town called Neatville all the people went out with their strimmers to all the roadsides, parks and river banks and cut down all the “weeds”. Only short neat grass was left. But they had cut down all the figwort plants and all the little wasps that loved to drink its nectar flew away.

Now these little wasps laid their eggs inside the caterpillars of the browntail moth and as a result most of the moths died. But now all the caterpillars grew big and they were covered in thousands of poisonous hairs. All the caterpillars became moths and all the moths laid eggs and all the eggs became caterpillars and so it went on until the night sky was filled with a blizzard of white moths. All the hedges and orchards and gardens were covered in drifts of white moths laying eggs. There were billions of caterpillars and trillions of poisonous hairs blanketing Neatville in a poisonous fog. The hairs got onto people’s skin and caused huge blisters and people breathed in the hairs and coughed and choked. People tried to burn the caterpillars but also set trees and houses on fire. Soon people began to move away until everybody had gone. And the last person to leave Neatville looked back at the abandoned smoking ruins of the town and said: “This is what you get when you mess with nature.” The end.

But this could never happen in Sidmouth. Yes, the poisonous hairy caterpillars of the browntail moth are here. They are kept in check by tiny wasps laying eggs inside the caterpillars. Yes the wasps are very fond of the nectar of the figwort that grows in Sidmouth near the river. Figwort is a tall plant with reddish leaves and tiny dark red flowers. It is called figwort as it was used to cure haemorrhoids which were called figs! In Devon there may be a few who are blind to any beauty beyond closely cut grass but most Devon people are wise and want a balance where we can live in harmony with nature. Devon will give life a chance.

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