In my ramblings over the great outdoors of Indiana I have more than my share of what I call nature or rural legends. Where they start is often hard to determine, but they soon spread and before long hundreds of people believe they are true. Let us take a look at one of these nature legends. The one I have heard more times than I can counts is about the Asian lady beetle. This is the beetle that seemed to appear from nowhere a few years ago.
They suddenly seemed to be everywhere and entered our homes in huge numbers when it began to become cold.
The first time I heard the legend about this beetle was at the hamlet of Sulfur in Crawford County. I was with someone from The Nature Conservancy when we stopped at a little diner to get a bite to eat.
A man at a nearby table began to talk with us. “You guys are not from around her are you?” No, I replied. “We are out looking at some natural areas.” “Oh, are you those nature guys that turned those bugs loose?” he continued. “What bugs?” I asked. “Those lady bugs you turned loose to eat the turkey ticks you brought in with the wild turkeys,” he stated with an edge in his voice.
I tried to explain we or no one else had turned them loose to try and control the lone star tick that he had called turkey ticks. I went on the explain they had entered the United State sometime in the late 1970s or early 80s in the south and had since spread north and were now all over southern Indiana.
I also went on to explain that like our native lady beetle they eat aphids and do not consume turkey ticks. He looked at me like man you don’t know what you are talking about.
He next went on in a now rather loud voice to say that either the Department of Natural Resources or the Hoosier National Forest had indeed turned them loose and were now dropping timber rattlesnakes from helicopters all over Crawford and Perry counties.
My friend from The Nature Conservancy began to smile and the local began to turn red in the face and said, “It ain’t funny, them bugs are all over my house and I’m afraid to go into the woods for all of those snakes.”
We tried to explain to him that this was not true and how did he learn of his so-called conspiracy that was out to keep him out of the woods and drive him nuts from all the bugs in his house.
I asked him how he had first learned of this conspiracy. “Well,” he began, “my brother’s friend had seen those feds drop the snakes from the choppers,” and while he had never gotten close enough to see the snakes on the ground what they were dropping had to be rattlesnakes and those bugs had to come from somewhere.
We knew we could not convince the man all of this was not true so we left what remained of our lunch and went over to a nearby store to get some pop to take with us. We had no sooner entered the store when the store clerk began the same conversation. We left as soon as possible fearing we might face a lynch mob if we remained.
I have heard the same legend about the rattlesnakes and bugs dozens of times since my first encounter in Crawford County, and it has now spread all over southern Indiana.
I have talked with the Department of Resources and Hoosier National Forest people many times and take it from me they are not dropping rattlesnakes from helicopters and had nothing to do with the bugs, but wish they could find some way to control the ticks.
More on the nature legends in future columns.