Insects And Real-Life Gamefaqs

This last few weeks I’ve been thinking about game walkthroughs. The ones which tell you how to find every collectible – the time spans during which they spawn and their rarity alongside any ways you can manipulate the odds in your favour.

I’ve been thinking about all this because I’m kind of consulting real life walkthroughs at the moment. There are some insects I’ve seen in my wildlife books or which have cropped up online as I tried to ID a related creature which I’ve really wanted to see for myself.

One is a green dock beetle, another was a ruby-tailed wasp.

I have a real fascination with irridescent beetles and other insects. They’re so beautiful and I love watching them going about their beetle business. As such I consulted wildlife websites and books (the equivalent of gamefaqs) to see where I might find such things.

As you might expect, green dock beetles are found on dock plants. They are common. Dock is common. But have I managed to find a single dock beetle? No. Not a sniff. And that’s despite me loitering in all manner of dock-infested verges having a gentle poke around but now it is August and it has been months and WHAT IS THEIR PROBLEM?

I’ve had to make do with looking at pictures of them online which is frequently hilarious because when the female is pregnant her abdomen puffs up so much that she can’t fit into her wing casings. It gets to the point where she looks like she’s trying to shoplift by shoving a big black bin-liner full of swag under her normal clothes. Then male dock beetles try to have sex with her and the whole thing kind of looks very awkward but it works for them so who am I to judge?

Image by Tristram Brelstaff

I think there’s still time to see them (or at least according to some of the guides I’ve checked) but all of this has reminded me how much videogames are built around the idea of the player seeing things or collecting things and how much real life is not. Well, I mean there are some theories that do put that forward as an idea but for my own world view it’s very much a case of dock beetles doing dock beetle business and that I can try to shorten the odds of seeing them but ultimately we might always miss one another.

I had the same feeling about ruby-tailed wasps. They’re so beautiful but I couldn’t be sure I would ever actually see one. Then I did! But it flew away so fast that I couldn’t really take it all in and then the task became about seeing one *again*. Would it come back? Could I lure it back? Will I rent the same house long enough to set up a habitat that it could come back to next year or the year after and that I would walk past at the exact right time to actually see it and not just keep missing one another?

I actually saw it this morning as I was heading to the shops. I was so excited I nearly fell over. Here are my pictures – the focus isn’t right – or at least it’s not what I would have chosen but the wasp moves fast so I was in a hurry!

Images by Pip

I guess other people might see ruby-tailed wasps and dock beetles all the time, but for me I like the idea that the world isn’t built for me and that I might never see a creature in real life because it makes their appearance so much more precious if it does happen. I’m not sure I’ve ever had that experience in a game.

Here’s the rest of my list of coloured beetles I want to see in case you were curious:

  • Green dock beetles
  • Blue mint beetles
  • Glowworms
  • Fireflies
  • Rose chafers
  • Green tiger beetles
  • Violet ground beetles
  • It’s not exhaustive and I’m so happy to see any little creatures wandering about – a lot of my favourite experiences have come totally unexpectedly and been in muted browns and blacks. They don’t need to be brightly coloured at all. But there are some which I would love to get a peek at and see how they look in the wild, just wandering about.


    1. Skabooga says:

      As common as they are around these parts, I always enjoy coming across Japanese beetles: iridescent in greens and browns, adorable little stub bodies.

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      phuzz says:

      Iridescence is cool, it’s due to tiny (~40nm) structures on the surface of the beetle, which reflect certain wavelengths of light, and not others.
      (The colours of oil on water are for the same reason. The thin layer of oil is the right depth to reflect one colour of light strongly, whilst absorbing the others).
      One of my professors at uni took electron microscope pictures of butterfly wings, which showed a sort of christmas tree shape.

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      Nauallis says:

      Neat. We don’t have these two in the Americas where I am. They look rather exotic to me! And both are rather common for all of you in Europe.

    4. Llewyn says:

      I found something closely resembling a green tiger beetle on one of the plants in the greenhouse last week. Didn’t know what it was though, beyond ‘something that didn’t look harmful’.

      Think I’ve seen green dock beetles in the garden before as well. I should probably pay more attention…