A suspicious death


There has been a murder in the garden. The whole of North Melbourne is buzzing and the renowned Italian Detective Ento Mologist, more lately of the yard [the backyard], has been brought in to investigate.

The usual suspects are dragged in, the most likely being the long slender green fellow with the nervous constitution. Known locally as Mantis, she is in fact a female, slightly rounder than her male partner, as she is soon to be a mother.   

Now there’s no point in coming over all sentimental, she is a well-known killer with a record as long as your arm.   

Ollie the Orb Weaver’s wife is there too, very suss the way she hangs about at night in her gaudy outfits. Henrietta Huntsman, also an after dark operator, was also in the frame but there’s no point looking at any CCTV footage as Huntsman spiders move too fast for the eye to see.

Gordon Gecko maybe? Now, I know what you’re thinking, this is Melbourne, and those geckos are a tropical mob, but we do have one family down here, Christinus marmoratus, nick-named “Marbled” gecko (maybe because he has the balls to cope with Melbourne winters) and obviously conned down here by some pretty dodgy tourist advertising. Worth a look anyway.

The smart money was still on Mrs Mantis having been brought up with much low life in her neighbourhood, spending long hours defending herself from that eight-legged Arachnid mob, not to mention other odd birds and the occasional lounge lizard.

Her worst nemesis, another tough tart, Mrs Mantis Wasp, sneaks her own kids in with Mantid’s kids, which, would you believe, eat the young Mantids for breaky.

Mrs Wasp’s expensive brief reckons because she spends her whole life parading up and down like some Scots Guard making sure no one else has a chance to gobble them up, and because her kids always leave some of the young Mantids alive, she’s actually doing us all a service.

But I ask you, do we want this kind of parasitoid behaviour in North West Melbourne?

We’ve all heard about Mrs Mantis biting hubby’s head off after the main event [but police records show this rarely happens].   

Nevertheless, she’s obviously no wilting violet, and one doesn’t need to be a Poirot to sum up the circumstantial evidence in the array of insect wings that litter the ground beneath her.   

But with her bulging tummy full of eggs, who can blame her for feasting on every bit of protein she can get those dagger-like claws into? And there’s another thing Ento found highly suspicious, the way she uses those claws like some back-alley hood uses a flick knife.  One minute they’re tucked away completely hidden in neat little pockets in her arms as she does her oh-so-innocent praying act like some pious monk in his cell, next, in a blinding flash, they’re cruelly dragging her latest victim into her insatiable jaws.

One could detect a distinct hum of relief throughout the garden as she was led away, mainly from the Spider and Beetle families, but particularly Lucilia cuprina (better known as “Blowie” in some circles). Mrs Mantis has been known to knock off up to 20 of her rellies in a single day!

Yes, the smart money was definitely on the Mrs Mantis.  Just the way she tried to evade them, suspiciously swaying to imitate a leaf buffeted by the breeze, and as for hiding upside down under a leaf at night, well, that just shouted guilt.

Actually, they were lucky to find the corpse at all, a thriving racket in body snatching occurring throughout the whole neighbourhood.

Some of these characters were real slugs. Of course, the namby pamby social workers always defend the ants, saying they’re so family oriented and really hard workers, bleating out that same old excuse - “we only came along after it was all over”. Oh yeah. Give me a break.

But visiting the garden next morning, everything appears different. Detective Ento Mologist is stunned. Here are now more dead bodies hanging in the greenery!

Limp remains of the cabbage white butterflies and once sprightly skippers hang, lifeless, suspended by their drinking tubes still glued into the innards of those insatiable white flowers.

Araujia sericifera, alias moth vine. It was all there in the files. He’d only had to look. A notorious killer originally from South America, well known for disguising itself as a harmless bloom. Cunning devil. How many innocent victims had it despatched, he wondered? If only the gardener had been more observant and rooted him out when he had the chance.


Oh well, that’s life [and death] in the garden.



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John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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