red in tooth and claw
I’ve always loved tree frogs. They remind me of jewels, such a beautiful green — when they’re green; sometimes they’re brown or as it turns out grey when they’re tucked behind the umbrella nest of paper wasps (Polistes spp.). In an earlier post, I said I thought that one of the several who live on the upper deck had actually eaten the caretaker wasps of the two nests in a little corner where the sunroom meets the exterior wall of John’s study. And cleaned out the cells of the larvae too. There’s still an active nest above the door to the sunroom —
but for how long? Today there were two frogs on a tomato pot, resting (or digesting) behind some of the leaves. Just now I was watering another deck and this little frog climbed out of the wicker planter where nicotiana is growing:
When the vines began to climb the side of our houses, the Rosa canina, the trumpet vine, the honeysuckle, the wisteria from John’s grandmother’s garden in Suffolk, we woke early on spring mornings to the sound of tree frogs (these are Pseudacris regilla). At first we heard just one. We called him Luciano because he had such a big voice. Then we realized there were more so we called him — them — The Tenors. One night I got up to pee and while I was washing my hands, I saw that one was clinging to the mirror above the sink — this was before we kept the sunroom door closed, before the weasel came in and raced around the house, before the cat brought a huge garter snake into our bedroom where we found it curled and frightened in a corner below some bookshelves, before the mice, before the bats came in to hang from the curtain rod and then fly around in the night like something out of a horror film. Anyway, there was one on the mirror and as I gently coaxed it into my hand to take outdoors, I asked it if it was my prince. (I didn’t kiss it.)
It’s hard to think of them in quite the same way now that I know, or at least suspect, they terrorize the paper wasps. But then, wait, I’ve changed my mind about the paper wasps over the years. I’ve realized they’re not aggressive (though they can sting, if threatened), that they are good pollinators, and I’ve watched them clean my roses and other plants of aphids, scale insects, and other pests. They’re quite elegant, with their long legs and slim bodies. I’ve learned that they all have very distinctive faces and a highly-evolved ability to recognize the facial differences of each other. So the more you know about something, the more you are likely to appreciate its unique place in the ecosystem.
The more you know about something — that my beloved little princes are not as benign as I’ve always thought? Exactly.