By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer
I awoke around midnight and, unable to sleep, I watched out the window as flickering lights floated above the grassy patch behind our house.
Fireflies seem magical in the silent dark.
We were in that quiet season after the spring peepers finish their nighttime symphony, and before the start of what I call the “August buzz,” the cicadas, crickets, and katydids who fill the late summer night – magically, it seems to me – with chirps and raspy murmurs.
Not all summer insects are magical. In my opinion.
Japanese beetles, for example. I first met beetles as a child living in our grandfather’s house. The beetles insisted on nibbling Grandpa’s grapevines. Each evening, he poured a bit of kerosene into a Maxwell House coffee can and, one by one, escorted the beetles into the can from which there was no return. Once, he invited my sister and me to help. That night I dreamed I was wearing a dark green sweater covered with vengeful Japanese beetles.
I’ve recovered from this nightmare. As an adult, I’ve spent many evening hours flicking Japanese beetles off our raspberry bushes into buckets of soapy water, kerosene being, I’m quite sure, environmentally incorrect.
And I remember our springtime mud wasp adventure when Dick and I were first married. Our house had been built the summer before. One night, we noticed a small dark spot on the cream-colored hall wallpaper. The spot was rotating. A mud wasp was chewing its way out of the drywall: chew, rotate, chew until its head popped out. Then came its front legs. It pushed its legs against the wall, trembling with the effort. A black body grayed with drywall dust slowly emerged and plopped into the empty jar we had so thoughtfully provided.
We went to bed, wondering if a wasp army was chewing its way into our hall. We closed the bedroom door, not wishing to see a row of mud wasps glaring at us from the foot of the bed. But this one was alone apparently trapped on the drywall is a pupa when the house was being built, birthing itself into an inconvenient environment.
Okay, so maybe that mud wasp seemed a little bit magical, spending the entire winter quietly developing in the drywall.
But I don’t find anything magical about fruit flies. Any ripening – or rotting or fermenting — vegetable or fruit is prime real estate to a fruit fly. It’s a fine place for Mama Fly to lay 100 to 1000 eggs that become adults in about a week, mate in two days, fly around my kitchen being very annoying, and die a few days later but not soon enough for me. Fortunately, they can be trapped in red wine or cider vinegar containing a drop of dish detergent. They die well-fed and happy.
The least magical of insects – in my opinion – is the tick. It’s said that Mother Nature has a use for every creature, but she might have messed up with this one.
I’m proud of my Dead Tick Collection. I saved the deer tick that bit me, because you’re supposed to do that for future reference, though I took the prescribed double dose of antibiotics. The other ticks in my collection are deer ticks and wood ticks that I’ve found, fortunately, pre-bite. Here’s how to capture a tick. Pick it up with the sticky side of a piece of tape, fold another sticky side over it. One less tick to plague the world.
I do not kill insects indiscriminately. I dispatch only insects that (a) want my food or (b) consider me food. Anybody else is magical.