BSAG revisited: Look out! It’s the flesh-eating beetle larvae!

· science ·

[First published 09/01/2003]

This week's bravery award goes to the camera people involved in the "Omnivores" episode of The Life of Mammals. First there were the grizzly bears. Big, hungry grizzly bears. I feared for the cameraman on that one, not to mention David Attenborough. I was on the edge of the sofa shouting, "Look behind you - there's a big hungry bear!" David's such a pro that he carried on with his effortless, unruffled delivery while, barely 50m behind him, half-starved bears galloped about after salmon. I wouldn't fancy my chances of out-running one if it decided I was coveting its fish.

Then there was the bat cave. Paul Stewart (the cameraman) must have really picked the short straw for that particular assignment. I can imagine the scene: they draw lots. "Yay! Platypus in Australia!". "Woohoo! African savanna!". Then Paul picks his assignment. "Oh bugger." The others are all laughing and chanting, "Paul's got the bat cave, Paul's got the bat cave..."

And so he ended up spending hours on end in a pitch black cave with millions of bats (all urinating copiously on him), wearing a respirator to stop him choking on the ammonia from all the bat poo he was knee deep in, in temperatures of 45 degrees. In case the odour level wasn't quite high enough, there were also some skunks in there. Oh yes, and then there were the flesh-eating beetle larvae. Of course, most beetle and fly larvae eat flesh, it's just that they usually wait until you're dead to tuck in. I got the impression that these ones wouldn't. Kudos to Paul Stewart - the footage he got of skunks bumbling around in the dark and munching on defenceless baby bats was horribly compelling.