The Annual Wildlife Post—Why Bugs Freak Us Out
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.