portrait of The Comedic Gnat

Saturday, May 9, 2020

thoughts from The Comedic Gnat

My neighbor returned to the dirt mound yesterday with one epic tall tale. They've always been a good story teller, but this one is for the record books! Imagine my friend lying on the dirt mound with limp wings, suspicious yellow residue spattered on their legs and body, and frantic words coming between heavy breaths. Here's their story:

I flew along our usual woods loop scoping out the terrain and sniffing for fungus. Great day. No wind, warm sunshine. And then I got a whiff of it . . . wonderful, healthy, prosperous fungus. I salivated with delight and let my olfactory sense be my compass.

This friend of mine has ZERO sense of direction, so following smells is actually the norm. I'm the real compass when we're together!

Zipp, zoom, weee! I flew to the source. Oddly, this fungus scent led me under a goofy curved leaf and into a glowing cavern. There was green, there was light, there were shadows, and there were hints of purple. I was in a fungus-scented kaleidoscope!

. . . or maybe they ran into a tree branch again?! What is a "fungus-scented kaleidoscope" anyway?!

But this glorious oasis quickly became a nightmare! I couldn't fly out. There were other things in the kaleidoscope getting in my way. The leaf-like surfaces around me were slimy. I fell over and over again! The fungus smell was still present, but I quickly realized this was no fungus. AN IMPOSTOR! I was trapped. There was no escape.
I tried to fly, climb, and call out for help. Exhaustion overcame me, and I fell down further. I eventually found myself crammed between mysterious knobby objects and a slimy leaf.

Oh, the drama . . . my friend has a story for every lap around the local hackberry tree.

Just when I thought it was all over, I noticed a tiny hole to the outside. WHY WAS THE EXIT SIGN MISSING?! My frustration for this kaleidoscope "fun house" had peaked. But I set it aside long enough to dive out that exit and fly home at high speed. Phew, what an ordeal! I'm glad to see you again, my friend.

My friend spent the afternoon recovering and recounting this tall tale to everyone in the neighborhood. By the end of the night, the story had morphed to include tidal waves of slimy liquid in the fungus-scented kaleidoscope, leaves that wrapped around them during the escape, and even an irritable human that nearly thwarted the escape. Sheesh, what a group of story tellers around here!


Note from C. Ragit: The fungus gnat is a pollinator of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant (Arisaema triphylum). This story recounts a fungus gnat completing one step in the pollination process. Not a tall tale after all!

“Arisaema Triphyllum (Jack in the Pulpit) | Native Plants of North America.” Accessed December 13, 2020. https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=artr.

“Arisaema Triphyllum (Jack-in-the-Pulpit): Minnesota Wildflowers.” Accessed December 13, 2020. https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/jack-in-the-pulpit.

“Jack-in-the-Pulpit: Pollination by Deception - Plant Talk.” Accessed December 13, 2020. https://www.nybg.org/blogs/plant-talk/2013/06/science/jack-in-the-pulpit-pollination-by-deception/.