You Got Dem Bugs

You Got Dem Bugs

People freak out at bugs. Since the beginning of time, we’ve been competing with the little bastards, grudgingly accepting common spaces, killing them when we can and cursing them when we can’t. Any time we start to feel absolute lordship over the Earth, those pesky jerks scurry out from underneath dishes, lay eggs in our food, make nests in our pubes, and attack us in stinging swarms on warm sunny days. We can always fight them back, but we can rarely beat them.

Everyone has at least one bug they really hate, usually stemming from a particular experience happening in childhood. When she was 11, a friend of mine pulled a cardboard box of stuff down from a shelf in a damp basement. The bottom of the box was rotted out and it caved in on her head, covering her in a family of centipedes that found great sport in tangling themselves in her long blonde hair. After screaming louder than an air raid siren, she eventually found some garden gloves to pull the bugs out of her hair. Today, she’s not very fond of centipedes, and has problems eating any sort of shellfish with legs, calling them big swollen bugs, which in effect they are.

Centipedes never really bothered me, though I probably wouldn’t share my bed with one. I shared my bed with a scorpion once, and they tend to get a bit irate if you roll over on top of them. I’ve drawn my battle lines with the insect kingdom, some are welcome in my home, and some get smashed on sight. I kind of like moths, even though they eat my clothes and drop larva bombs in my cereal. They remind me of butterflies, which although I have no great affinity for, I rarely go out of my way to kill. Spiders are fascinating to me, and I usually don’t crush them. I’m especially nice to them if they spin webs in my house, sometimes I even catch flies to toss into their webs. Hey, they’re cheap pets and there’s only about a five second grieving period when they die.

I like the random bugs that sometimes show up in my place. Beetles, dragonflies, whatever. But I do have a little bit of a problem with ladybugs. Once I was renting out a farmhouse out in Indiana and the landlord paid some dudes to mow the 10 acre field in my backyard. Little did anyone know that the field held more ladybugs per square inch than any other spot on Earth. I had hundreds of thousands of ladybugs stuck to my window screens, filling my ceiling lights, in the grille of my car. You couldn’t go outside without having a few fly into your face. Ladybug carcasses were tracked all over the rugs, in-between couch cushions, and even in my bed. They eventually moved onto greener pastures, but not before leaving me a bit queasy on the subject.

I’ve always been kind of neutral with roaches. In theory, I know they’re dirty, disease spreading, multiply by the millions, scourges of the planet, but in that regard, they remind me of humans, which sort of endears me to them in a sick way. We spend piles of money to wipe them out, but they keep building resistances to whatever we gas them with. We could destroy the world with nuclear bombs and the roaches would survive, probably leading to the next level of intelligent creatures, or possibly just being content with existing as bugs. I have had some pretty bad experiences with them though. When I finally got my own apartment in Venice, I bought a $60 mattress from a store up the street. Completely exited to be sleeping on something other than a 2-feet-too-short-couch, I lugged it up two flights of stairs, threw it in the middle of my floor and started jumping on it. It was then when I noticed a small hole in the side of the mattress with a steady stream of roaches filing out, like second graders on a field trip. I found a copy of the Los Angeles phone book, and smashed roaches until there was a fine layer of roach jelly permeating the previously beige carpeting. Against better judgement, I’m still sleeping on the mattress.

Another time I was staying with some friends out in Atlanta. They had so many roaches in their house, you couldn’t even see the display on the microwave through the dead exoskeletons piled between the glass and the display numbers. Interestingly enough, my friends traced the bug problem back to the microwave. They moved out if their old place because the roaches were so bad, but the microwave proved to be the Noah’s Ark of insects, a bug shuttle; the roaches Trojan horsed into the new house and unpacked their bags overnight. You gotta be pretty tough to live in a microwave. The first night I tried to sleep in the house, I ended up pulling my socks over my jeans, pulling a knit hat over my face, and tucking my hands in my pockets. I could still feel the roaches crawling over me as I slept. I ended up sleeping in the back of my car in their driveway. It wasn’t exactly a relaxing visit.

Mosquitoes just piss me off, but I really enjoy the smell of bug repellant, so it’s a fair trade off. Those biting flies are pretty huge bastards, especially when they attack you in huge swarms, but they’re easy to kill (although not before they leave big itchy teeth marks on you). I got chewed on by a horsefly at summer camp once, and the counselors put meat tenderizer on the wound, which still doesn’t make much sense to me. I think they just wanted to punish me for the canoe incident. Bees and I get along fine, I haven’t been stung by one in years. Wasps and I respect each other, although their little brothers, the yellowjackets, seem to have it in for me since I ran over a nest of theirs with a lawnmower one summer day. I didn’t figure out what happened until the six or seventh sting and by then I was covered by an entire swarm. One flailing get the garden hose moment later, I was bug free, but suffering from about twenty or so stings. Days passed. The grass started getting longer. Pop was on my back to mow the yard, but the yellowjackets ruled that lawn, not me, or my family. I wasn’t gonna go out there. Pissed at his son’s cowardice, my dad got fed up and mowed the lawn himself. He only got stung ten times.

But my least favorite bug is the ant. I hate ants. I hate them. I see an ant inside, I kill it. Outside, I suppose they have as much right to live as anything else, but the temptation is still there. Living in this city, especially near the beach, you can’t even leave an atom of a cheerio in the sink without coming home from work to find an entire colony fighting over it. My neighbors actually have to hang their garbage from the ceiling and cover the string with ant poison to keep the little buggers away. I’ve had a family of ants move into my dirty laundry hamper before, not exactly the best way to make a good impression at the laundromat. But I’ve watched them; the way those ants work is amazing. They send a few advance scouts out in search of food and when they find it, they run back to the nest and tell everyone about it. Usually, If you crush those few lone ants, the hive never hears about that spilled sugar in the pantry. But if they get back to base with the news, the whole place gets all exited and the next thing you know, there’s a trail of ants running from a crack in the wall, across your kitchen floor, right into the trash can. After a while, a few more scouts break from the trash can assault to find that knife in the sink with the speck of peanut butter, creating ant mess #2 in the sink. The best way I have found to deal with the little bastards is Windex. A few sprays kill them all dead, and make discarding the bodies little more effort than wiping them away with a paper towel. You get rid of the little chemical trails they leave for other ants as maps to your garbage, plus your counter probably needed cleaning anyway.

Some people have a problem with killing bugs, but I figure that in my house, I get to control who lives there, and until those ants start handing me rent checks, they’re not gonna live there. If they ever find me in their kitchen, they can kill me too.