The Annual Wildlife Post—Why Bugs Freak Us Out

At dusk the drone of the cicadas is deafening. For a species that theoretically only spawns every three to five years, this annual event puzzles Chicagoans. We're confused because we hide from the elements most of the year so any summertime visual/auditory arousal throws us off.

My 8-year old grandson takes the cicada fertility boon as an opportunity to collect molted shells, the exoskeletons. He’s delighted with this process. To add to the wonderment of it all, his aunt bought him a plastic bug farm for live insects. I told her that one day, when she has grandchildren, I'll try to return the favor.

But even an 8-year old can’t take the sight of maggots eating through the head of a dead bird. Master Scientist comes running to inform me, after my Saturday nap:
"Bubbie, you’re not going to believe this! On the deck, in a flower pot, is a dead bird! A very large, dead, black bird! And his head is only a skeleton! The worms are eating him. You have to see this!"
I’m sick at the thought, pass on the demonstration, and he totally understands. The culprit is West Nile Virus, or bird flu, some such plague. Black crows are dropping from the sky. You see them in the parks, quite dead, if you look carefully. This is an opportunity for my daughter, a good Jewish mother, to teach her son, “Now you have to be SURE to wash your hands when you touch bugs. You could catch the sickness, too.”

This is probably where it begins, I'm thinking, the female aversion to bugs, for it does seem to be associated with women, the EEEK, thing. Generations of prejudice against things that crawl, for no one likes anything crawling on the skin, and the fear of disease. Perhaps there is also a fear of the unknown, a fear of invasion. They are small. They're fast. They hide. Who can keep up with them?

But honest. They’re so small, bugs. We can kill them fairly easily. Seven in one blow, if necessary. And RAID is amazing, has subdued many a crawling or flying six-legged monster.

A person can't let them get the psychological upper hand. You just can't. Even in quantity, they're still just bugs. I can say this because aside from a few spiders and a few ants, resident centipedes and water bugs, my house is bug free. If there were other, strange, territorial, hard-to-kill bugs, I'd probably move.

We're supposed to be tolerant, I guess, and loving. But last week we were playing a little tennis near a city garden and a bee stung my hand as I reached for a lost ball. It was a little bee, an aggressive bugger, and I got angry because I had been trying to teach the kids what I learned from the book, The Secret Life of Bees (fabulous, Sue Monk Kidd, that if you love them, bees, they won’t hurt you. Send them love.

Rubbish. Do not believe this.

Once I had a friend who told me a bug story. Her mother ridiculed her for being afraid of bugs, and she didn't even have a fear of bugs, not in the plural. It was one particular bug that threw her off her game, a big indestructible thing.

None of us like the indestructible ones.

I have a fond memory of waking up to the sound of a mosquito buzzing in my ear, me trying to rouse my parents from their sleep. My mother groggily inspires me, "You can do this, I know you can. Turn on the light, track him down, and kill him." She didn't like mice, particularly, but there wasn't a bug she couldn't dispose of with alacrity. Once I mastered mosquito detection, it was a short step to swatting and murdering the bloody things.

So why the bug phobia, you asked, didn't you? I think that the EEEK! thing is a combination of what we've already said, they're small, they could go anywhere, but we should add the functionality of the behavior, see it, sometimes, as a coy female reaction that begs male attention. Bring out the club, caveman. We have roaches.

This vulnerability is modeled by a woman's mother, a woman who assigned the job, killing house bugs, to a man. Not all that different than Do the lawn, dear, it's grown to my knees. It is endearing when they come to the rescue, and gives the fellow something easy to do, something less taxing than the lawn. Some swat with a bare hand.

My daughter didn't see a bug-killing role division, for if you remember, bugs didn't blow my own mother away. So theoretically, knowing how transgenerational these things can be, my daughter shouldn't have shrieked this morning when she opened her laptop to find an ant. She shrieked once, then she shrieked again when she saw another. I brought out the RAID, but she blamed herself for letting the kids eat terrible sticky things while playing Club Penguin (the Facebook entry drug).

The shriek, we concurred, was associated with the thought of insects devouring the inside of her Mac. A fairly good reason to fear them.

Now, if I hear a drone from inside that thing at dusk? Something's going to have to give.



Texan99 said…
People always joke about how one of a husband's major roles is to kill spiders. I've never understood it, myself; one of the things I like about my husband is that he'd no more molest I spider than I would. We're both fond of them. Bees, too.

Mosquitoes, I admit to killing. I've never cared for big cockroaches, either. But the general aversion to worm, bugs, and snakes, and dirt generally, is a mystery to me. I like them.
Texan99 said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack Steiner said…
There is not a bug that I can't kill- here, there or anywhere.

BTW, I loved this line:

but there wasn't a bug she couldn't dispose of with alacrity.
CiCi said…
Spiders cause my EEEK! reaction. If I have to I can take care of it but I would rather hubby did it. But any other little bug I don't have a problem disposing of myself. Mosquitoes go after hubby but not me. I would have had to pass on seeing the dead bird too.
Anybeth said…
My hubby gets the "EEK" from spiders, and he asks me to kill them for him. He just-can't-do-spiders. But if I needed him to shoot a possum or kill a rat? He's my number one guy.
Tzipporah said…
bugs? meh.

Talk to me about snakes, though... nearly spilled a dozen zucchinis all over the yard when I turned around to see what ended up to be a dead garter snake in the grass.

Even dead, even just a garter snake - I still get the willies, thinking about it.
Anonymous said…
The only bug enemy I have is the stink bug, I swear they invade my home just to taunt me, buzzing around me as I try to sleep. But I have the vacuum and suck them right up. Most other bugs are tolerable and easily disposed but some do elicit an eeewww once in awhile.
Kerro said…
I come from generations of women who could squish bugs in one fell swoop. I, on the other hand, am an EEKer. Bleuch. Can't stand them - creepy crawly little things. Especially the roaches. They are the worst. I can't kill them, coz you can here the crunching and the cracking as you do. But even when you put them in a jar and hope they'll die of suffocation, they live for weeks. Weeks, I tell you, weeks! Eerrgghh...
Ella said…
These PJs for kids from LLBean are not going to help with sweet dreams -
in the "spider" pattern?

I hate crickets -- inside the house--, will scream every time.
Nina said…
funny. only fast moving bugs freak me out. my son hasn't decided yet if he likes or dislikes them.

I like your blog - I linked to it on mine -
Lily said…
Men are afraid of them too! I remember once I was in the basement at my Dad's house and I had left my pants on the floor (I was like 14 at the time) and when I put one pant leg on there was this HUGE spider on it. I'm not talking like HUGE as an exaggeration from a 5 year old. This thing was massive... a little smaller than a tarantula. I have never disrobed faster in my entire life, nor shrieked as loud. I ran upstairs and asked my dad for some bug spray and of course he was sure that I was exaggerating and that it was probably just a little bugger that needed to be squished, not soaked. He picked up my pants, turning them to find the spider and let out the funniest sound to ever come from my dad. My pants flew across the room as he replied "I'll go get the Raid."

It may be their job (at least it will be in my house), but I don't expect them to like it any more than I would!!!!!
porcini66 said…
I'm good with spiders (as long as they leave me alone...), but cannot for the life of me handle EARWIGS! Eeeesshh...

Mosquitoes are a bane to our existence (don't know of ANYONE who won't kill those little b*stards) and well, most others are really just kinda cool, ya know?

I remember when I was a kid, we had these huge winged ants coming up from under the house - hundreds of them...they weren't termites, but they had taken up residence in our foundation. Thank God for Dads with THAT particular situation.

Other than that, the only trauma that I suffer from them is when they are in LARVAL stage...something about the writhing white pile just makes my stomach heave.

On that note, it's off to make breakfast for my kids! Thanks for writing and for the early morning squeam...LOL!
Isle Dance said…
Gah. For the first time, ever, I've had bugs in my home this summer. I'm blaming it on the cabin. First little sugar ants, just like everyone else on the island. I knocked them out with baking soda. Then, drain flies. I never knew these suckers existed and am still trying to figure out how/why they invaded. My plug-in, toxic-free, sticky bug "night light" arrives Monday...
Donna B. said…
My husband and I have worked it out nicely. I handle spiders and bugs, he handles snakes.

His fear of spiders is nowhere near as bad as my fear of snakes though. He's not nearly as willing to move because a spider is in the house, yet when a snake recently got in our house, moving was my first thought. And I wasn't even going to pack first.
therapydoc said…
I just feel we all have to talk about this.
Dr. Deb said…
I think you need a trigger alert for this post. I'm going to have nightmares from the photos! Really, that's the truth.

I recall working with someone who was an earthy, spiritual person, vegan and such. There was a spider climbing on the wall during session that she noticed and asked if we could set it free. She tried to get it but it spun down its web toward me. I mustered all that I could and gently picked it up with a tissue. Together we opened the window and let it climb out. We talked about what that exchange meant to her, etc..... and then later in the week I talked to my therapist about what it did for me. Amazing how healing can take place in a moment for patient *and* therapist, right?!!
tuesday@11 said…
Is anyone else having problems with your blog? The bathroom one is gone and I see on Trench Warfare you have a new one postede but I can't access it. Plus, my email notified me of a post from January.
Syd said…
My mother taught me about insects at a young age. We studied them and I had a collection. We reared beetles and praying mantis. I am glad that she was fearless and sparked my interest in science. We don't fear what we understand. And that goes for so many things, people included.
Anonymous said…
I would like to exchange links with your site
Is this possible?
Sarah Glenn said…
With non-straight couples it can break down into a 'role'. My partner saves me from spiders, which is her 'butch thing', while my job is stuff like working out weird Word formatting (I'm apparently a more nerdy butch).

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