field notes on biology and culture

ties between ecology, disease, and anthropology

Harmonia Tiger-wing (Tithorea harmonia) chrysalis

“I found it and I named it, being versed in taxonomic Latin; thus became godfather to an insect and its first describer — and I want no other fame.”

—   Nabokov, “On Discovering a Butterfly”

"Ants," by Joanie Mackowski

Two wandering across the porcelain
Siberia, one alone on the window sill,
four across the ceiling’s senseless field
of pale yellow, one negotiating folds
in a towel: tiny, bronze-colored, antennae
'strongly elbowed,' crawling over Antony
and Cleopatra, face down, unsurprised,
one dead in the mountainous bar of soap.
Sub-family Formicinae (a single
segment behind the thorax), the sickle
moons of their abdomens, one trapped in bubbles
(I soak in the tub); with no clear purpose
they come in by the baseboard, do not bite,
crush bloodless beneath a finger. Peterson’s
calls them ‘social creatures,’ yet what grim
society: identical pilgrims,
seed-like, brittle, pausing on the path
only three seconds to touch another’s
face, some hoisting the papery carcasses
of their dead in their jaws, which open and close
like the clasp of a necklace. ‘Mating occurs
in flight’— what better way? Weightless, reckless
rapture: the winged queen and her mate, quantum
passion spiraling near the kumquat,
and then the queen sheds her wings, plants
the pearl-like larvae in their cribs of sand:
more anvil-headed, creeping attentions
to follow cracks in the tile, the lip of the tub,
and one starting across the mirror now, doubled.