I have always had a fascination for dangerous things. I have found myself on many occasions eye to eye with deadly critters in our Australian Bush and in forests abroad (Laos, PNG). I am allergic to bees and wasps and know from accidental stings that my reaction is serious but they were always due to my encroaching on the animals space (putting my hand down at the wrong time on the wrong place, endangering the lives of these insects).
Many schools these days have students allergic to foods as well as animals and advocate for the elimination of these dangers to reduce the risk of injury. In my work as a community garden teacher I have often heard requests that plants that attract bees (particularly purple flowred ones like lavender) are not to be planted; or to have their flowers trimmed off at flowering time! Where would we be without bees and pollinators (we simply wouldnt survive) and how can we be advocating sustainability and wildlife conservation if we eliminate their food sources? More importantly how will children learn how to behave around danger if they never get the chance to identify it let alone learn safe strategies to use and practice these?
Now with the media coverage of Ross River Virus victims in Melbourne schools are putting in policies that any still water (bird baths, frog ponds, puddles) should be dried out to avoid mosquitos. Where will our geckos and lizards and small birds find water? How can we watch a life cycle of a frog or dragonfly if we remove it’s habitat? Why don’t we look first and establish the presence of wrigglers (which are delicious to many other creatures) before making blanket bans?
Today I was lucky enough to chance on what I thought was one of the most pain inflicting critters in southern Australia, the bluebottle. This solitary wasp is parasitic and the female I observed fossicking around in the mulch under my favourite ancient River Redgum in my local Greenmeadows Park. I watched respectfully at a distance with the usual pang of fear in my belly warning me of the dangers of this creature as she looked for other insects and spiders or invertebrates to lay her eggs in. Turns out it is a parisitic Blue flower wasp (Scolia soror), not known for dangerous stings. Some how the brilliant blue triggered an instinct in me warning me of venom (think blue-ringed octopus, bluebottle jellyfish…)
I believe all creatures have a right to exist, fulfill their lifecycles, and play their role in the larger ecosystem. If we favor some species over others we immediately alter the balance of this ecosystem. We can only learn about our place in nature if we do more observing than exterminating. And we can only learn to be “careful risktakers” by allowing some risks in the first place.
What are your thoughts on giving children access to dangers?