Insect invasion

18th October 2013 at 01:00

Britain's unusually good summer has helped to make our school's harvest festival a great success. The tables in the hall groan under the weight of ripe fruit, tumescent vegetables and freshly gathered tins of baked beans. But nature's abundance extends to fauna as well as flora. An example of the former is clinging to my classroom wall. So far, I'm the only one who has noticed it. I'd like to keep it that way.

It arrived out of the green expanse that is our school playing field, along with several thousand of its ilk. Alien invaders stimulated by unseasonal warmth and an instinct to procreate shrugged off their earthbound existence and took to the air. The chain-link fence proved no barrier. Now they loiter by windows or hang in doorways, each hoping to die with a smile on its mouth parts.

Things might not be so bad if the school wasn't already suffering from collective entomophobia. My painful ordeal with a wasp during the first week of term is to blame. Melissa still hasn't got over my pitiful screams and produces some of her own every time anything flutters within 10 metres of her head. It was this that prompted our latest crisis.

The first 12 minutes of my playground duty had been only moderately eventful. Ryan was having time out for stamping on Nathan's milk carton, three footballers had been red-carded for violent conduct and I had declared the monkey bars a no-go area. I was just three minutes away from blowing the whistle when it happened.

The girls arrived with a sense of purpose that left me in no doubt that there was going to be trouble. "A giant mosquito tried to bite me in the toilets," Melissa sobbed. She sucked deeply on her asthma inhaler while her friends explained how it had crept up on her and attacked her.

Melissa demanded that we immediately report the incident to the headteacher, so that the school could be closed for health and safety reasons. After all, the creature could easily suck someone's blood and give them malaria, from which they would die in agony over several feverish days. She swore this had happened to somebody in her hotel in Benidorm. From small rumours grow great misunderstandings, so I sent Ms Braveheart to investigate.

Fearlessly, she entered the girls' toilets; incredibly, she returned alive. "It's a daddy-long-legs," she declared. As though her words were a signal, others began to arrive in huge numbers, causing wild hysteria. Children capable of facing down plagues of virtual zombies became inexplicably terrified by a few harmless insects.

"They're called crane flies," I explain. "They don't bite people and they don't inflict deadly diseases."

"Why did one attack me, then?" Melissa asks.

"It probably bumped into you by accident," I say. "They're not very good at flying. They only grow wings for the last few days of their lives so they can find a mate and reproduce."

"Reproduce means sex," Bethany says, knowingly.

"Insects have sex?" Melissa gasps.

"Oh, look, there's one in the corner," I say, because frankly I would rather deal with mass panic than explain the mating habits of crane flies.

Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield, England.

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