Once upon a time a girl called Susan killed some creatures that frightened her. She didn’t know very much about them, she had been told they were called stag beetles but she did not know about their unusual life cycle or the role that they had in the ecosystem. No one told her that squashing the beetles was cruel and unnecessary, so every year in early summer when lots of them were flying about, this girl tried to get rid of as many as she could.
As is usual with little girls, they grow up and move away. Susan did exactly this and she forgot about the stag beetles because they didn’t live in the new place she had moved to. One day she read in a magazine about how rare stag beetles had become and she learned about their life cycle, spending from five to seven years underground as grubs feeding on decaying wood before metamorphosing into beetles and emerging from their nursery.
Susan remembered how scared she had been when she’d seen the males flying about with their huge mandibles; now she felt guilty and ashamed because she had killed them for no other reason than ignorance.
Then she moved to an area where stag beetles were still to be found. They weren’t as common as they had been when she was little, and the ones she saw weren’t as large as they had been all those years ago. So Susan set about making her garden a haven for stag beetles. She piled up logs and left them to rot, she left as much ground as possible undisturbed, and she kept the old hedges that surrounded her garden.
Perhaps the most important thing that Susan did was to talk to people about stag beetles so they wouldn’t be as afraid of them as she had been. She posted on social media about looking out for them and wrote an article in a local magazine explaining how more buildings, smaller gardens, wider roads and the use of pesticides had all contributed to a dramatic decline in their numbers, in addition to natural predators like badgers and foxes who dig the grubs out of the ground.
One day a boy came to visit Susan. He was about the same age that Susan had been when she had killed stag beetles.
‘I’ll bet you’ve never seen one of these?’ Susan knew there was a fairly big male on the potting shed roof, waiting for the right time to take off. The boy was fascinated and thought the beetle was like a dinosaur.
‘Can you take a photo of it so I can show my class? Then I can tell my teacher about them and she can tell the other teachers about them.’
Susan took the photo and as she sent it to the boy’s phone she felt hopeful. She couldn’t undo the past but she could perhaps make a difference to the future.
About the author
Penny Rogers writes mostly short stories, flash fiction and poetry. She has been published in print and online and had some success in literary competitions. She is a member of the management team for SOUTH poetry magazine and facilitates a very informal writing group in her home town.
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