Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Life in the Undergrowth

(UK, 2005)

Our favorite nature guide, Sir David, takes us down below ground and sometimes into the air with insects and other creepy crawlies in the fifth of his “Life” series. We’ve seen all of them except The Life of Plants and Life in the Freezer, and intend to see those, because they are simply the best thing going, miles beyond your regular nature documentary. He will entertain you even when he’s showing you stuff you were already aware of, and then four or five times or more he will show you something that will make your jaw drop and think “Who knew?” The answer sometimes is, nobody, until they shot this film. From an underwater wasp that makes a sand flea look like an elephant, to the great blue whale, David always finds ’em and brings ’em back alive and in the camera.

For this one, it was some very special cameras indeed. Some of the best macro shots I’ve ever seen, and it was all shot in high definition video, so one day I’ll watch it again on my 96-inch flat plasma screen … as soon as I can buy one. Here’s the chapter headings:

1: Invasion of the land – A very brief description of how the invertebrates moved from water to land and the adaptations they underwent during the transition.

2: Taking to the air – Focusing on insects and their conquest of flight.

3: The Silk Spinners – On invertebrates that make use of silk, including insects but focusing mostly on spiders.

4: Intimate Relations – On symbiotic, parasitic and commensal relationships between various invertebrate species and between invertebrates and plants.

5: Supersocieties – On insects that form colonies and supercolonies – bees, wasps, ants, termites.

Dear David is 80 now, getting a bit long in the tooth to hike into deserts and caves and crawl into termite mounds or even get hoisted up into a gigantic bee nest in Sumatra. He always insists on putting himself in the picture, and typically he will appear on 6 continents, and sometimes on the 7th, in one episode. I wonder how many times the man has been around the world? Is there any country he hasn’t been to? He is now embarked on what will surely be his last hurrah, the final part of the Life series, Life in Cold Blood, due in 2008. I can’t tell you how eagerly I await it, and how sadly it is to know that it will be the last.