Saturday 9 March 2013

Damned Disco Maggots

We have all done it I know. I first did it when I was about 13. My father was not happy.  My mother was horrified. She didn't speak to me for weeks.

I came down one early morning to find the hall awash with escaped maggots. Cleared up as many as I could whilst my parents were still in bed...but three weeks later the secret was out...big time, and, as above, my mother and father were not amused.

On that occasion I know why it happened. Leaving the lid a little loose to allow them to breathe, also lets them sweat and escape by scaling the walls of the tin. We soon learn that keeping maggots cool and dry, with the lid off, contains them within the tin. Or it did until the night before last.

The tackle shop did not have my usual colour of maggots, and so I had to buy something called "Disco", a lurid mixture of over the top coloured maggots. They had been left overnight, two pints in a four pint maggot box, lid off, on the cellar floor. All should have been fine. BUT...going down to pick them up for my early start yesterday, the sea level looked rather low. About a pint had gone walkabout. And I have no idea why or how. I blame the tackle shop and his disco branded gentles. These discos were regular Houdinis, who limboed their way over the wall. I rounded up as many as I could, making me a little late for a pre-dawn start, but the effect in three weeks time will do nothing other than reduce the number of megatons falling when the wife finds out. What is worse, in three weeks time my 84 year old aunt comes to visit from Australia, together with my cousin and her husband. I feel my second near death experience of the year approaching fast. I have no idea how they escaped.

Meanwhile: does anybody know whether flyspray kills maggots hidden in the nooks and crannies of a cellar? The tin says all flying insects, but....
This all recalls an article I wrote many years ago, following another such escape.  I reproduce it here, in exact form, no changes to protect the guilty.
It was entitled:
Commuting with Nature

May I first advise the squeamish to go and squeam elsewhere.

Years ago now I was a very, very keen angler, a specimen hunter, one of those idiots who sought out the biggest of the particular species in which he was interested on the day. Daytime, night-time, all weekend, often all week, summer, winter, rain or sunshine, it made no difference. If I could get away from work, the lake or riverside side was the immediate destination. Of course big fish and long sessions meant lots of bait, and there were times when maggots, bred commercially on a maggot farm, would be essential. So, in the torrential rain (perfect weather), one day, we were tench fishing at Tabley Mere, Knutsford, Cheshire UK. And here my apologies to the estate gamekeeper, belated though they be: yes! we did break the rules and fish at night (every night actually). God, my soul feels cleansed now! The trip was to last some 10 days, and so the bulk of the maggots were in my old, dark blue Ford Cortina, safe in the boot (trunk). Or so I thought.....

A bit of natural history now. Whilst maggots are kept dry they happily crawl around in the bottom of a maggot tin, and do no harm at all, presenting no problems to anyone. But when they are wet, the water allows them to crawl up vertical surfaces with ease. Now in the car was not a tin of maggots, but some four gallons of these sweet little creatures. Dyed in various pretty colours, they milled around in a big plastic sort skip in the boot! Anglers' cars of course get neglected, and mine being no exception to the rule, it had developed a water leak in the boot, directly above half the world's population of best quality multicoloured supermaggots: a tench picnic fit only for the gods. Once wet the maggots quickly emulated Houdini, and by the next time I visited the car, for another gallon or so of Frank's Fishing Shop's best, the vast bulk had gone for a stroll. As I approached the car I realised all was not as it should have been. My dark blue paintwork was covered in little dayglow coloured spots.....and wait......the spots appeared to be moving. Yes folks, every square inch of the wet car was covered with the brutes, all engaged in one great scientific surface tension experiment . Not only that, but, as maggots seek out nooks and crannies in which to hide and pupate, they were crawling everywhere. They were even going around and around inside the car's instrumentation. I had a maggot pressure gauge and the fuel gauge, although still working, merely measured how many gallons of maggots were at loose in the car! Of course the main problem for the moment was the loss of the bait. Picking them off the car one by one was not a practical solution when there were tench still waiting to be caught. I raided the gamekeeper's compost heap for redworms. Two bucketfuls, still mixed with the compost, and we were back in business again. A few short weeks later, episode two: having pupated in the car by the million, a billion freshly hatched blue bottle flies were now engaged in hatching. For a week or so everywhere the car went, it left a trail of emerging flies. Stop at traffic lights, and a swarm of them would horrify any pedestrian within easy flight distance. Park near houses, and the occupants would wonder where on earth all the flies were coming from. Rather like Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" but in miniature.

I could not of course abandon the car, or take time to de-infest it: No time, I was carp fishing that week! There were other subsequent escapes, in the house, in the fridge (keeps them cool in summer and slows down pupation), but none bring back the full flowing flavour of the moment as did the car incident.

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