Gendarmes, or rhinos?

When Spring comes, peel back the bark or ivy growing on a tree or open shuttersGendarmes that have been closed over the winter, and you will more than likely find these delightfully patterned and polished bugs. Zillions of them, stirring from hibernation.

Pyrrhocoris apterus, common name Fire Bug, and more often known as ‘gendarmes’ (policemen) in France. They are harmless little creatures, despite their numbers, and don’t bite, sting or eat your plants, except for certain seeds, especially from linden trees (we have two very large ones which may account for the vast numbers of these bugs in our garden. You can safely leave them alone. Have you noticed they have rather cute faces? Some are frightened, some are smiling, others are mournful. Isn’t nature marvellous?


Why they are known as policemen nobody really seems to know. A particular characteristic of the Fire Bug is that they tend to go around in pairs, end to end, in push-me-pull-you style. That’s how they mate – a lengthy procedure that can last for days. I haven’t heard anything that makes me think that practice is common among French policemen.

Meanwhile rhinos are being poached to extinction for their horns, which are sold for astronomical figures to gullible Asian men who believe that powdered rhino horn (which is comprised of nothing more aphrodisiac than keratin, so will produce the same effect as chewing hair or fingernails) will restore their floppy virility. This foolish belief comes about because the rhino mates for up to an hour. In comparison with the protracted copulation of the gendarmes, the rhino’s performance becomes rather feeble. So here is my idea, with apologies to the ‘gendarmes’ – but they are abundant, and rhinos are not.

There’s a lucrative market to be tapped, producing an organic Viagra. Plenty of raw material that can be easily and safely harvested – unlike ‘harvesters’ of rhino horn – or poachers, as we call them, who risk being shot on sight at best, or at worst a lengthy prison term. Note: these are my personal preferences. Poachers may feel otherwise.

Given the volume and availability of the raw material, gullible old fools end users would be able to buy directly on-line for a fraction of the price that they are now paying for a similar worthless powder performance enhancing product.

It’s a win/win solution. Except for the Fire Bugs of course, but they may agree that their sacrifice is worthwhile for the greater good of the rhino.


22 thoughts on “Gendarmes, or rhinos?

  1. This is a splendid idea! And thank you for giving me SO much info on Gendarmes …. we have lots back home in France and they entrance me but I knew little about them except that I always feel their faces look like tribal masks. And I had assumed they were having a bonk when they pass by in pairs but had not appreciated quite how epic that coupling is!

  2. ‘That’s how they mate – a lengthy procedure that can last for days. I haven’t heard anything that makes me think that practice is common among French policemen.’ Read this and snorted out loud! Great piece, Susie. 🙂

    • I remember meeting an ancient lady in Kos, many years ago, who told us that during the war people had collected even the tiniest snails to eat. Of course insects are full of protein, so by all means try and let me know how it goes. And, er, what side effects they have. 😀

      • Yes, they did. My mother said that during the occupation if her mother managed to get a bag of rice and it had maggots in it, she’d say ‘Never mind, it’s protein!’

  3. Aha, so they’re Fire Bugs in English. I wondered why my British friends looked at me askance when I told them that there were hundreds of policemen in our garden eating our hollyhock seeds.

  4. @M L Kappa – I foresee that in the near future many more people are going to be eating insects. They will be processed and packaged attractively, and given fancy names to appeal to Westerners, while in Asia, Africa and other poverty-stricken parts of the world people will keep on eating them au naturel.

    They will provide protein, but only my gendarme-meal will provide the ‘bonus’. 🙂

  5. Last spring, we would be sitting in the sitting room, the fire roaring away and we would be bombarded by bugs, they were everywhere and we couldn’t work it out, in the daytime they were nowhere to be seen, but once the room warmed up at night and we got cosy out they would come. Eventually we found out it was the “Gendarmes” they were coming in under the bark of the oak logs and once it started to get hot they would come out all around the room! We have hundreds of them under the old lime trees, they are actually quite fascinating to watch and the children love to photograph them!

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