Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hot stuff!

In a big glass jar on my kitchen countertop, I keep large dried chile peppers, chile pasilla and chile ancho, which I use occasionally in Mexican recipes, or in soups and stews of my own invention (in other words, if it's not pinned down, it goes in the pot).

Chile pasilla and tomatillo (tomate verde).

We haven't been home much lately, so the latest batch of chiles has been sitting undisturbed for over a month. The other day, as I was standing waiting for the microwave to zap my supper, I noticed a tiny insect on the inside wall of the jar. The lid was on tight; it had to have come from the chiles.

I dumped out the contents and caught the bug. A beetle, about the size of a carpet beetle.

Must have hatched from a pupa inside a chile pepper.

I shook out the seeds from the chiles onto a paper towel, and combed through the resulting mess. My catch: half a dozen live beetles, and a couple of dozen dead ones.

I dropped beetle #1 into a pill bottle, replaced the lid. Caught beetle #2. Took off the lid, peered down into the bottle. Beetle #1 was not there. I found it on the underside of the lid. Ok. Beetle #2 went into the bottle. And then #3, and #4.

Except, when I got to #5, there were only two beetles on the bottom of the bottle, and two on the underside of the lid. And they were mating.

Love at first sight.

They stayed in that position for the next half-hour, while I caught beetle #6, got out the lamp and camera, took photos of them all while they raced around (damaging 2 in the process; they are so tiny!), and downloaded the photos to the computer.

Finally, when I had cleaned everything up, and was watching them again, the larger one started to walk away. He/she dragged the other with him/her for a minute, then they separated and ran off in opposite directions.

I put a piece of chile, a vein and a couple of seeds in the pill bottle with them, just in case one of them wants to lay eggs. Maybe.

All 4 undamaged beetles are very much alive and roaming around the pill bottle as I write.

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