The first year they turned up, I thought they were the advanced guard of a potentially unwelcome invasion force; now, I have got quite prepared for the annual event and even look forward to their arrival with something like affection.
The announcement of their return is a loud, almost electronic buzzing. That first year, I spent ages tracking down the source of the noise. It was late in the evening, and I finally managed to isolate the sound as emanating from my son’s Lego box, which was stored in the fireplace of my house (my chimney and flue being blocked off, I should perhaps clarify).
I thought it must be one of the electronic elements of Lego (I believe they are called Technics. Ed.) which had been left switched on. I sifted through the jumble of multi-coloured blocks until I came across a strange sight. It was quite a large insect, beetle-like in appearance, with reddish-brown wings, covered with dust from my chimney, lying on its back, and letting out an intermittent shrill buzz. The noise was a bit alarming. It was so loud for the size of the creature, and it made me think of other buzzing insects, which I tend to associate with stings. Here be danger, I wondered?
Nevertheless, I righted the groggy-looking critter onto its legs, where it continued to protest its apparent displeasure. It was at that moment, I spotted the second one.
One bug, okay; two bugs meant panic stations. Where there were two, there might be three; might be ten; might be fifteen thousand. Thankfully, before I alerted the local pest controllers, I had the sense to consult the internet. A Google search of the keywords ‘beetle’, ‘chimney’, ‘buzzing’ and ‘July’ soon produced the answer: they were summer chafers, a slightly smaller cousin of the cockchafer. The ensuing story turned out to be quite a romantic one.
Every July, when atmospheric conditions are just so, the male and female summer chafers mate on the tallest point in their neighbourhood––slightly exhibitionist, IMHO, but hey-ho! Whatever rocks your boat––which, in this case happened to be the chimney stack to my house. In the ecstasy of their lovemaking, they managed to tumble down my chimney pot and negotiate a dusty passage into the hearth in my front room where, sated and exhausted, they called to each other. Not quite Tristan and Isolde, but a chafer chivalric equivalent.
Relieved to discover that, unless an orgy was taking place on top of my roof, these were likely to be the only two invaders of my home, I felt strangely sympathetic to their plight. I returned them both to the garden, perhaps to return another year.
And so they do. Probably not the same pair (Not at all likely, since the adult summer chafer’s lifespan is only about six weeks. Ed.) but perhaps their kin, regular as clockwork every July; this year, appearing just after Harry Kane had scored the second of his two goals against Ukraine.
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree is as predictable as a cockchafer.