When a firefly’s thoughts turn to fornication


I have just seen a couple of dozen fireflies lighting each other’s fires at Paluma.

Not flies at all, actually. Beetles. And a masterpiece of biological engineering, if I may say so.

Every spring when a young beetle’s thoughts turn to fornication he screws a lightbulb into his bum and goes searching the neighbourhood — flashing, as it were — for a mate.

So sensible. Just imagine the human misery that would have been avoided if the creatures of one sex had a little light in the tops of their heads that winked on and off, and the others had an answering beacon.

The most basic instinct of the human race is not self-preservation or reproduction; it’s the terror of making a complete a nitwit of oneself to a member of the opposite sex.

I know. The first girl I ever asked out recoiled in horror, gasped, “What, with you!” and laughed hysterically. I never even worked out how to kiss the second one because of the trauma of the first. It set me back years. All for want of a battery and a little light.

There’s so much about romance we could learn from animals. Indeed, when you consider how they go about it, it’s hardly fair to call them animals. Male seahorses bear the young, male emperor penguins incubate the eggs, swans mate for life even if they end up hen-pecked. There are no divorce courts in the world of swans. And you can’t fly south to escape. They just follow you.

And did you know there are no animals that have to sleep in the wet patch?

I mean, if we were properly designed there wouldn’t even be a wet patch. We’d simply pass each other envelopes or touch fingertips and — bingo! — pregnancy.

As it is the whole business is a messy, precarious, hit-and-miss affair in which the discomforts of sex frequently outweigh the comforts (when you think about it later, that is).

The sofa in the lounge room of your parents’ home, where your younger brother — your parents, even — might burst in at any moment was a nerve-racking, heart-stopping, gut-wrenching experience that seemed worthwhile before and during, but not necessarily after.

My grandmother (a staid and sombre lady with a chest like a sea defence) used to say the definition of a climax was when you couldn’t stop even when your mother entered the room.

No, if we ever get a chance to go back to the drawing board I propose we have a lightbulb grafted to our heads, and when we meet a member of the opposite sex winking at us, so to speak, and we think about starting a family, we’ll go together to some kind of pregnancy eftpos machine and together we’ll slip in a card.

Bearing in mind the firefly experience it might be more appropriate to have the lightbulb screwed into our backsides.

But, hey, we don’t want to look ridiculous.