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Saturday, Sept. 20, 2003

JAPAN LITE

Summer insect tourism slows to a crawl


Good morning, thanks for joining "Good Morning Insects!" for today's top news. My name is Goki Buri.

Due to unseasonably cool temperatures in July and August, humans in Japan enjoyed a relatively insect-free summer. Without the constant arrivals and departures of flying insects, houses that usually bear a striking resemblance to Narita airport were nearly empty this year as a combination of terrorism, foul weather patterns and even SARS kept most insects home and in their nests.

Humans reported fewer instances of nighttime mosquito reconnaissance missions in the bedroom and fewer instances of centipedes dropping on them from the ceilings. Even the ants seemed to stay home most of the summer, only occasionally venturing out to seize upon some leftovers in the sink. And even then, they were choosy -- almost polite, just nibbling and not hauling anything back to the nest. This year, the humans had no reports of entire loaves of bread hauled off.

The population of flying termites at the beginning of the summer was steady, but overall domestic insect tourism dropped by over 70 percent after the rainy season. Unseasonal midsummer typhoon activity curbed travel plans for many flying insect families, while cool weather and constant rain kept land dwellers from crawling very far. Terrorism and SARS were responsible for less international travel by flying insects hitchhiking onto international flights.

There were a few hard-core travelers determined to continue with their travel plans. Some mosquitoes, who tend to choose their victims carefully and prefer recommendations by word of mouth, still traveled far for a good feast. But most still preferred to dine and dash. Satisfied with less these days, they didn't push their luck by hanging around for "o-kawari." In addition, many festivals this year were canceled or held indoors, causing food shortages for mosquitoes all over Japan. The biggest feast of the year, Bon, when humans return to their ancestral homes in droves, prompting al fresco dining and all-you-can-eat buffets with fare of all blood types, turned out to be a disappointment. Most Bon festivities were moved inside due to rain, thus restricting entry for mosquitoes.

Other hard-core travelers such as aphids and even caterpillars managed to venture far enough to feast on their favorite plants. Squatters staked out plants like cottages, while others built summer homes or cocoons.

The short food supply this year has left many insects physically weak and mentally prone to suicide. Especially high this year has been the incidences of crawling insects, such as roaches, rolling over on their backs, putting their feet up in the air and just giving up.

On the bright side, sales of pesticides and fly swatters are down 50 percent from the year before. Many more insects were spared the splat and chemical extermination this year.

If you're traveling this weekend, there is rain, thunderstorms, and heavy winds in the forecast, so we remind you to be extra careful of last-minute changes in migration patterns, as midair collisions with other insects are especially high during these times.

Lastly, we'd like to say happy birthday Lepidoptera -- a warm welcome to all the butterflies who have just come into the world recently. We wish you the brightest future!

That's it for "Good morning Insects!" I'm Goki Buri. Please join me tomorrow for a special report on "katorisenko," insecticide and other weapons of mass destruction found in the cabinets of most Japanese homes. Our weapons expert, Muka De, will tell us how to recognize them and how to disengage their mechanisms.

Stay tuned for our next program, "Food Chain Update."

E-mail: amychavez2000@yahoo.com Web site: www.amychavez.com


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