I do not like bugs.
I know, I’ve heard it all, they were here before us and they’ll be here long after the human race has gone extinct. Blah blah. I just wish they’d go somewhere else.
Whether they are insects, arachnids or arthropods, to me they are just bugs, slimy and disgusting. And unless they’re going to help with the rent, they’d better stay out of my house.
All kinds of colorful creatures have taken up residence here in the desert. We have centipedes, millipedes, scorpions and hairy, poisonous spiders. Then there are the reptiles — the snakes and lizards that play among the cacti.
Honestly, I don’t mind if the critters stay out in the uninhabited areas of sand, but they really are not needed here in town. There is nothing quite like the feeling of thinking you may have seen, out of the corner of your eye, a lizard dart around the corner and into the kitchen. They may not knock or ring the bell, but believe me, they manage to get in.
Even regular garden variety bugs gross me out. This not a new thing for me, either. When you’ve lived in New York City, you know about cockroaches in intimate detail. I grew up squashing them, both the regular kind that just went CRUNCH underfoot and the big ol’ ones we called waterbugs that could fly and went SPLAT (and made an awful mess) when you stepped on them. In junior high, I did a book report on a volume with the unlikely title of Nobody Loves a Cockroach… or Fly, Ant, Bat, Rat or Other Creeping, Crawling Flying Pests which Menace Our Daily Lives. My sentiments exactly.
For some reason, as a kid I was deathly afraid of the creepy, but harmless, arachnids that we called daddy-longlegs. They seemed to spin webs in every dark corner. We would destroy their silky residences with a broom, preferably one with a very long handle.
I did chase after, catch and collect butterflies as a kid, but to me, those didn’t count as insects. They were just too beautiful. So I killed them and mounted them on Styrofoam.
Things changed for me just slightly when my mother was going to college and took a course in entomology. I learned the name Coleoptera and grudgingly admitted that ladybugs were actually pretty awesome.
My sisters and I used to pick fat, hairy caterpillars off my mother’s rose bushes and once, we set one of them in a jar with some leaves to watch it spin its cocoon on the way to becoming a monarch butterfly. Whenever we returned home at night, my father would be the first to enter the house in the dark and grab the can of Raid to end the lives of any critters that appeared when he turned the lights on. He was quite surprised the time that something flew into his hair. When the lights came on, we found an empty pupa and a butterfly to shoo out of the house.
The thing I was really scared of was being stung by a bee or a wasp. My mother would tell us horror stories of how painful that experience was for her, and she’d been stung more than once. Beehives and wasp’s nests appeared almost every summer and had to be removed by my father.
Aside from the wasps and hornets, the insects I feared most were the fat, lazy yellow jackets, which seemed to come after you, particularly if you were wearing a bright color. These guys were actually wasps, and they had a way of mistaking a person’s yellow or pink shirt for a flower.
Coward that I am, I still fear being stung by one of those things. Today, for example, I opened the door to the patio at work, then quickly ducked inside when I noticed a yellow jacket hanging around our picnic table. I had one of my coworkers go outside with a seat cushion as a weapon to chase it away. Don’t go thinking he’s so brave; when a cricket gets into the office, he is petrified and I’m the one who has to capture it. Sure, it’s an insect, and my life would not suffer a bit without it, but at least it doesn’t sting or bite.
But ‘tis the season, as our desert temperatures soar above 90°F and all the little insect eggs hatch, bringing the creepy-crawlies once again among us. Sure enough, when I arrived home after work and opened my car door, there to greet me was another of those stinging things.
It wasn’t the yellow jacket’s fault. I was wearing a pink tie and it mistook me for a rose.