Bug Off!

Summer’s invasion of the creepy-crawly hordes

By Deborah Salomon

I am a lover, protector, defender, feeder, rescuer of all living things. Except bugs, with a few caveats — ladybugs are sweet, butterflies glorious; I’d never lay a finger on a grasshopper, praying mantis or “lightnin’ bug.” Insects, not bugs, I should call them, because they are complicated and wondrous creatures deserving dignity. But dignity is the last thing on my mind when the ants come marching, marching, with numbers and determination of a Roman legion.

About this time every summer, they attack, gaining access through hairline cracks in window frames. Tens of thousands, each smaller than a dust mote. What are they seeking? I don’t leave food out. Perhaps an invisible drop of fruit juice puts out the call. I wipe out an entire army with a dishcloth. Replacements arrive immediately. I find their place of entrance, tape it over, but they find an alternate route. At least they don’t bite, like the fire ants building sand pyramids in the yard. Each bite raises a blister, which itches and hurts like hell for days. Forget locusts. They are the plague. I don’t like to use poison because of my kitties so I’ve come up with another method. How does boiling water — gallons of it, laced with ammonia and detergent sound?

I understand arachnophobia but don’t vote with their caucus, except concerning the big hairy ones. Nothing wrong with Charlotte of Charlotte’s Web. Fear notwithstanding, one must admire, from a distance of course, the engineering prowess required to spin a web for snaring mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes! I’ve already devoted an entire column to this nemesis. I will not sleep until I find and smash the buzzer who attacks when the lights go out. This means jumping up and down on the bed as I toss a pillow at the skeeter’s ceiling landing pad. My actions are motivated by an allergy to their venom. Once I ended up in the ER with mosquito-bite poisoning.

I admire, from afar, cicadas that know to emerge every 17 years (2030 next in North Carolina) and create an otherworldly roar.

Flies, fruit and otherwise, are more nuisance than anything else — the robocalls of insectdom. Likewise harmless pantry moths, which provided a secondary benefit. Their presence forced me to purge kitchen cupboards, pantry and drawers. Traps were successful, aided by the old wives’ method of strewing bay leaves and spearmint (no other flavor) gum sticks around shelves. They never returned. If only ants succumbed so easily.

Yellow jackets and wasps send me running indoors. I deal with enough situational hornets’ nests in daily life. Don’t need the real sting thing.

On to creepy crawlers, particularly the big kind we used to call water beetles. Big? They could swallow a tadpole . . . whole. Occasionally, one gets into the house. Squishing is just too messy. So I capture it under a glass, slide a thin piece of cardboard between the rim and floor, lift the cardboard and glass as a unit and carry the frantic critter outside for release. Not sure if water beetles and June bugs are related, but both give me the shivers.

Not so slugs — snails sans shell. I marvel how they are able to slither under the front door, leaving a sticky trail that glistens when dry. They curl up when picked up with a paper towel and returned to their moist outdoor environment. Considering the body type, slugs move rather quickly toward a pet food bowl, climb the sides and drape themselves over the edge like swimsuit models lounging by the pool. Except while relocating slugs I recall, with guilt, savoring escargot in garlic butter during my misspent young adulthood.

Where, I wonder, are the earthworms, caterpillars, centipedes? Summering in the mountains, I suspect — avoiding the August broil.

Smart bugs.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a staff writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

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