Thankfully, this year’s thunderfly invasion hasn’t been as intense or prolonged as in previous years, but whenever I see a spattering of little, black specks all over the windows I remember the story of my encounter with this character:
I read the paragraph I’d just typed and noticed a comma where a comma shouldn’t be. I moved the cursor up to delete it. The comma wriggled down to the next line. Odd. I peered closer. The ‘comma’ was a tiny insect. I tried to blow it away. I tried to sweep it off with a sheet of paper. It didn’t budge. I leaned even closer and saw that it wasn’t on the surface of the computer monitor but inside, underneath the glass.
I’d never encountered these little beasts until we moved here. Our house faces fields mainly used for growing wheat and barley, which is where they (correct name is cereal thrips) spend most of their lives. The locals call them thunderflies because they swarm in the kind of hot, still weather that triggers thunderstorms.
Fortunately, they don’t bite, sting or spread disease. Their big nuisance factor is their size – or rather, lack of size. It enables them to get everywhere. And now one had got into my monitor and I wanted it out.
“It’s got two choices,” said the resident computer expert. “It either finds its own way out or it’ll die in there.”
Poor little thing!
This was odder still. I hadn’t felt sorry for all the hundreds, thousands (millions?) of thunderflies I’d brushed out of my hair, shaken from my clothes, wiped away or sucked up the vacuum cleaner, but seeing a lone individual wandering around right in front of me awakened my caring instincts. Was it male or female? Was it trying to escape the strange environment it found itself in, or was it enjoying its exploration? Was it hungry? Thirsty? Lonely?
Suddenly, it was a complete character with a name, history and lists of likes and dislikes. I began making up his first adventure while I went to get a cup of coffee. When I came back – he was gone.
Now I was even more concerned. I searched along the edges of the screen. Had he escaped and rejoined his little friends? Had he wriggled deeper inside? He couldn’t have (gulp) gone to that big barley field in the sky, could he?
I kept looking but I haven’t seen him again.
So if you find yourself in a cloud of black dots that makes you feel itchy all over, please pause a moment before waging war on them. One of them might be my thunder fly. His name is Timmy.