The six legs of the ladybug moved in unison across the leaf. They carried the red bug to the base of the foliage where it joined with the stem. Tiny white aphids worked there in the axil, sucking sweet juices from the plant and creating sugar the ants would harvest. The ladybug feasted on the succulent aphids until a robin swooped down, snatched it and flew off to feed its young.
The rush of wings pushed a breeze across the face of the dwarf lying on the forest floor nearby. A soft wind entered his air passages and began to awaken his senses. Gentle but persistent prickles inside his nose and throat roused him further. He breathed deeper. The first dry swallow forced him to generate spit.
That’s a snippet from my fantasy novel, Shadows in the Stone. I didn’t have to research these facts. I’ve known them for decades because I’ve worked around plants since the late 1980s. I can’t remember when my first encounter with aphids occurred, but my most recent one was last summer. Those irritating little pests attacked the maple tree in the front yard and a white spruce in the garden.
Ladybugs are the natural enemy of aphids, but they can’t always get to them. Ants stand guard, protecting the aphids while they make their sweet sugar. Then the ants harvest the substance for themselves.
If you have ant trails going up and down your plant (tree, shrub or flower), you probably have aphids, too. They gather in the axil of the plant, the place where a leaf attaches to the stem. They also congregate on the underside of leaves to hide from predators, including you.
Writing the opening for this particular scene came easy because of my knowledge of plants, pests and the food chain. This opening serves three purposes.
1) It introduces readers to the scene.
2) It informs readers of how aphids operate.
3) It adds a little ‘gotcha’ humour after a dramatic scene.
Throughout my writing career, I’ve been told, write what you know. I’m sure you’ve heard this, too. Writing what you know makes writing easier and allows thoughts to flow smoother without having to research. It almost feels like a break, finding a treat in your pocket or sitting amongst hay in the warm spring sunshine to editor your novel. You might have to check a fact here and there, but you know the basics and gallop with it.
Write what you know. It’s fun, interesting and oh so easy.