Of stinkbugs and men

I have three rough and tumble boys. They play sports; they wrestle each other; they leap off furniture; they catch toads; they do stunts on their bikes. They are little men’s men, daredevils spurred on to great feats of bravado by unpredictable rushes of testosterone.

They are rugged, undaunted envelope pushers, at all times and in all situations, provided none of those situations involves insects in the house.

A moth in the house sends them scrambling like they’ve heard air raid sirens. A spider elicits high-pitched wails, like they’ve become air raid sirens.

They run to Daddy, known for his skill as insect trapper and disposer. He produces his most reliable tool: toilet paper. With a little wad of paper, he catches the bug and flushes it, because, as every schoolboy knows, insect Heaven lies beneath the swirling waters of the potty.

Insects are pulling out all the stops when it comes to sneaking into our house.

If Daddy is not home, they make the best of the situation by running to Mommy. Mommy takes a more distant view of insect disposal. Mommy sprays bugs, notwithstanding the fact there is rarely bug spray in the house. Mommy will spray whatever bottle is closest at hand on a bug: Windex, antiperspirant, Pledge, poster adhesive. If she can’t kill them, she’ll certainly make them spotless, confident, lemon fresh, and sticky.

I’m no great fan of insects, but I have learned to take a measured approach to finding one near me. Mommy has been known to challenge Usain Bolt’s 100 meter time when confronted with a bee. Of course, that was before she had children to protect. Now, she throws the troops to the ground and covers them with her body as if shielding them from exploding shrapnel. It’s all very heroic.

I’ll let you decide where the boys inherited their reaction to insects.

This year, our plague is stinkbugs. Five years ago, I’d never heard of stinkbugs. Now, they are everywhere. Despite their name and ubiquitous nature, I’ve never smelled a stink bug. They only stink when you squash them. This should serve you right if you are the type to shoot bug guts all over your walls and countertops. Even odorless bug guts make for poor décor, and squashing them deprives them of their basic right to ride the maelstrom down the pipes to Valhalla.

You stink, and your mama dresses you funny.

Stink bugs are relatively harmless (unless you are fruit), but that still doesn’t mean I want them in my house.  The boys don’t want to imagine big, ugly beetles crawling on them at night. Unfortunately, a stink bug’s second favorite activity, after mowing fruit trees, is to come into our home in autumn, and the boys’ window AC unit is the easiest place for them to do it.

This leads to cries for rescue. Daddy charges in, armed with his lethal toilet paper, and whisks the offender off to the Great Swirling Reward. The unwanted stink bug is gone, the area is secure, and my own three cherished little stink bugs can go to sleep.

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Why I wouldn’t harm a fly (in October)

Our six-year-old has a love-hate relationship with bugs. He’s happy to discover a Roly Poly, having a genuine soft spot for these ugly little creatures. For some strange reason, he refers to them as his Facebook Friends. He’ll turn over a rock with the question: “I wonder if any of my Facebook Friends are under here?” Perhaps this is social commentary; if so, it runs too deep for me.

Spiders are on the opposite end of his continuum of bugs. He doesn’t like spiders, and with good reason. Spiders don’t keep themselves inconspicuous, under rocks and other things typically found outside of the house. Spiders have no respect for human property rights and trespassing laws. Spiders have been known to bite people. These qualities do not recommend them as Facebook Friends.

Spiders sometimes get into little boys’ bedrooms. This is the worst thing spiders do. You know they’re just waiting for the lights go out, to crawl all over an innocent sleeper and probably jump into his mouth. Spiders are mean-spirited like that.

web of desire

I presume these are the long-missing, former owners of our house. The spiders in that bedroom are merciless.

Over the years, we have discovered three or four spiders in this boy’s bedroom. He has never been attacked by one of them, but they have left their mark. He just knows that for every spider seen, there are thousands of unseen brethren, biding their time, waiting for the perfect night to strike.

When this perfect night is scheduled within the spider community is unknown to us, but one thing is clear: we must be ever vigilant. This vigilance extends beyond spiders to their potential allies in the bug world. Even a visit from the harmless Lady Bug triggers the siren: “Bug in my room! Bug in my room!”

Daddy scrambles with his handful of toilet tissue to catch and escort the intruder to his final flushing place. The crisis isn’t over until Daddy explains why, logically, this wouldn’t be a good night for The Spider Revolt. Everyone knows, spiders are very logical.

Recently, the “Bug in my room!” siren was set off by a late season housefly. It was one of those plump, lethargic flies that you could pick up in your fingers if you wanted to. It was the quintessential housefly in autumn.

I have developed my own psychological bug thing. I can swat a housefly in spring or summer, no problem. But I can no longer bring myself to kill a housefly after the Equinox, for the stupid reason that the book I am in the midst of publishing is titled A Housefly in Autumn. Swatting that bug would be like killing my own book, which I would much rather wait and let the reading public do.

swatting for fun

Sometimes I yearn for the days when I could sit back with my swatter and make sport of the autumn flies. (Image: Russell Lee/US Farm Security Administration)

I flung a tube sock around the creature, trying to coax him out the door. Buster joined his brother in watching me do my Royal Fool Sock Dance. They had little patience for my forlorn efforts and as much sympathy for my superstition. “Kill it!” they yelled at me.

I couldn’t kill it. I swatted madly until we lost sight of it, then persuaded the boys that it was dead. It wasn’t dead; it was merely pushed off into obscurity. That’s a step above dead, right?