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We took a collecting trip, starting at sea level and hiking up a 7,000-foot mountain where little collecting has ever been done. Our goal was to make it to the top and collect Trigonopterus weevils, butterflies, moths, and water beetles. Our group consisted of my dad, Peter Jon (a translator and insect collector who grew up as a missionary kid here), a friend of his, his son David, three guides, and me.
It was terribly hot and humid at the foot of the mountain, and all of us quickly became soaked in sweat. It was slow going because our guides were from the city and very much out of shape, and they also had a hard time finding the trail. So it took a while. This terrain is home to swarms of mosquitoes and leeches, which are unavoidable, and also poisonous snakes.
On almost every piece of vegetation posed brightly colored insects, ready to be photographed or collected. We had to restrain ourselves because once you start collecting it’s hard to stop, and you make little or no headway at all. The insects we wanted were high-altitude insects that are probably endemic to the mountain.
Lowland localities have more exotic and colorful flora and fauna compared to the mountains, but I prefer the highlands and was looking forward to reaching the cool, mossy alpine terrain.
It was difficult to determine where the top was. We came to a clearing that looked to be very close to the summit and took advantage of its position near the edge of a drop off. It was perfect for moth collecting. Super Mie (instant noodles, ideal camping food) was for dinner. Super Mie is the cheapest meal in Asia Pacific, which pretty much makes it the most popular meal as well. I did the math and one package of Super Mie costs 0.14 USD. After a quick clean up, we waited for nightfall. Once it was dark, Peter Jan and my dad put up a sheet and lit a kerosene lantern to attract moths and other insects. It didn’t bring as many moths as we were hoping for, but it was better than nothing!
The light not only brought insects but large mice appeared from holes in the moss and were very curious to see what we were up to. Even after scaring them away, they would return shortly after. I noticed that many animals in the area had no fear of man. People do not often reach the top, and natural predators are few, so they don’t have much to fear.
The next morning, we all woke to severe itching—jungle mites had gotten on us the day before while we were hiking and bit us in our sleep. It was very uncomfortable, because the more you scratch the itchier it gets. The bites were the least of our worries though, as we have experienced before. On the mountain tops, there is no water, and we had used the last precious drops to make breakfast. We sent our guides in search for water while we hunted for insects.
Peter Jan was busy putting moths in envelopes while my dad and I went to collect the Trigonopterus weevils. The trigs were pretty sparse, but the ones we did find were interesting. My dad was also able to find some water beetles in a small puddle, which we feel are guaranteed to be labeled as new species. It rained during the afternoon, which provided us with water, but it stopped when it got dark, enabling us to collect some more moths.
The next morning was very foggy and drizzly, and I could not wait to get back to the guesthouse in town to have a nice, cold shower to soothe the bug bites. We made our way slowly back down the mountain, the conclusion to a successful expedition. Besides the itchy welts from the mites and bleeding leech bites, it was an enjoyable trip—another mountain conquered.
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