Don't bug me

My 10-year-old son came to me on a recent morning and somberly announced, "We've got to move."

This came as a shock, considering that we moved into this house only eight months ago.

"We can't move," I sputtered. "We just got here. Why do you want to move?"

"I was brushing my teeth and I looked in the mirror and there was a spider in my hair."

The spider didn't bite him or harm him in any way, but the alarm of finding a spider in such close proximity was enough for him to surrender the house.

Our new house is in the river valley and the lush greenery means we have lots of insect life we rarely saw at our former home, including mosquitoes that swarm at dusk, bumblebees in the shrubbery and fat houseflies that buzz loops around the porch, waiting for someone to open the door so they can come inside. Grasshoppers and praying mantises and invisible aphids scurry around our flowerbeds, eating our plants and each other. Has anyone else noticed the bumper crop of June bugs this year? And we must have a lot of cobs, too, because I keep finding cobwebs everywhere.

Then there are the cicadas that leave their empty husks clinging to every surface. Our dog, Elvis, eats the cicada shells. He'll be loping along and he'll spot one on the wall and he'll come to a screeching halt. He'll snatch it off with his teeth and crunch-crunch-crunch, it's gone. We've theorized that he thinks they're pork rinds.

My wife and sons made an art project out of cicada husks. They collected a dozen of them and spray-painted them bright blue. I wish they'd warned me first. I discovered the blue bugs clumped together in a Nambe tray and nearly had a heart attack.

Most of the time, we try to adopt a live-and-let-live attitude toward the insect world, but occasionally they get to be too much of a nuisance. Spiders in one's hair, for instance. That's just going too far.

I was sitting at my desk recently, talking to my wife on the phone, when a housefly decided the Garden of Eden resided inside my mouth. He flew right at my face, aiming for my flapping lips. I waved him away and kept talking. He dive-bombed me again. By the fifth time he'd attempted to land in my mouth, I was screaming and cursing and waving both arms around madly. My wife, on the other end of the phone line, must've thought I was on fire. I tried to explain the seriousness of the situation, but she was laughing too hard to listen. It probably would've been simpler (and more manly) to just eat the fly and get it over with.

In most households, it's the man's job to kill and dispose of insects and arachnids who've taken up residence. I try to fulfill this duty, but I'm not as quick as I used to be. Houseflies seem to have radar when I approach with a swatter. They take off before I ever get within reach. I've learned you can throw out your shoulder trying to whack them when they're in mid-flight. I even have trouble catching up with spiders. When they make their speedy escapes, I remind myself they have four times as many legs as I do, which helps me feel a little better.

I've been waging war on an anthill in the back yard all summer. I don't mind a few ants running busily around, but this anthill is home to those big red suckers, nearly an inch long. They bite, so they have to go. I'll drown the anthill in Black Flag, getting a secret little thrill at the way they go twitchy and curl up and die. I puff out my chest like a Great White Hunter and march back into the house and wash my hands thoroughly so I don't go twitchy, too.

Two days later, the ants have excavated a new exit six inches away from the old one and they're back in business. I'm sure if I looked at them through a magnifying glass, their little faces would be smirking at me.

I'm about ready to give up and let the ants take over. We could always move.

(Editor's note: This column originally was published in 2000. We're in a different house now, but I'm still at war with ants.)

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