Bitten for the Better

Arden Podpora, Guest Contributor

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I first fell in love with conservation when I was bitten by a katydid.

It all began in the summer of 3rd grade in an unassuming Jewel-Osco parking lot. The place was just about as far from natural as you could possibly get. No trees, no grass, not even any of the spiky weeds that seemed to grow everywhere. Paradise had been paved and this parking lot swarming with burnt-out nine to five workers and suburban moms had taken its place.

As my mom and I were exiting the store, I was distracted by something small and green clinging to the door. I had always been a bit of an oddity when it came to how I felt about bugs, and I harbored the unpopular opinion that most of them actually aren’t as bad as people make them out to be. So, instead of avoiding the creature, I stopped.

“What is this guy?” I wondered aloud.

My mom, laden down with groceries, turned around and glanced at my new friend, “I think that’s a katydid. I wonder how it ended up here,” she mused. Since ‘here’ was pretty much the last place on Earth a katydid would want to be, I wondered the same thing.

A sane girl might have turned and run, but I was no such girl. The poor little guy was clinging for dear life onto the automatic exit door and one wrong move would result in its untimely death by crushing. I reached out and cupped my hands around it before gingerly hopping into the car, prepared to hold it for the journey home. There, it could be released somewhere much more suited to katydid life than the Jewel-Osco parking lot. Unfortunately, the poor katydid had no way of knowing that I was trying to save him. Filled with what I’m sure was the terror of being trapped in the grip of a strange giant, the insect decided to take action and proceeded to clamp its mandibles down with surprising force on one of my fingers.

I cried out, shocked by the betrayal of the very creature I was trying to save. And yet, I refused to release or hurt my charge even if it was currently latched onto my flesh. I looked to my mother for advice on what I should do, but all I got in response was laughter. Thanks, Mom.

As the car rolled to a stop in our driveway, I raced out and unclasped my hands. My passenger turned and gave me a dirty look before hopping away into the grass. As it disappeared, I was filled with a strange feeling of satisfaction. I may not have saved the world, but I had saved the life of one very feisty creature, and to me, that made a difference.

That day I fell in love with saving animals and being the voice they don’t have. Since then, I have written articles on birding and wild spaces for a local magazine, volunteered with the conservation district to monitor endangered plants and to eliminate invasive ones, cultivated a backyard garden that caters to wildlife, donated my birthday money to World Wildlife Fund, raised Monarch caterpillars responsibly in the family room, and gone vegetarian.

That little katydid sparked my wholehearted dedication to wildlife, and it has shown me that I can go all in on the things I feel passionate about. As climate change, pollution, and environmental degradation threaten our world, dedication like this is of growing importance. But my actions alone won’t be enough. That’s why I want to continue to advocate for others to stand up and combat issues like these to protect the things we love – from katydids to family. So while the bite mark has faded, my passion to do good for has not and nothing – not even a vicious attack from a katydid – will stop me in my endeavors.

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