Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tick or treat?

I used to love ladybugs.

They seemed like bright red dots of happiness punctuating the garden, protecting it from the evil aphid marauders.

That was before the scarlet ladies visited in droves one Christmas. No matter how sweet a thing seems on its own, thousands of the tiny, uninvited, arthropods swarming around our heads as we tried to unwrap Santa's loot could have been the opening scene of a horror flick.

I can't help but think of it wistfully now as if the invasion were a charming cinematic feat of the lowest budget -- visible nylon strings an all -- and I didn't appreciate it while I had the chance.

Had I known the stream of horror shows that would follow – the flea infestation of 2011, the annual summer earwig convention in the master bathroom that is becoming as common as … well … the ants that parade around our kitchen counters come May through August – I would have cherished each moment of our “Ladybug Christmas.”

Perhaps I should just pretend each new seasonal plague is just a gaggle of ladybugs in disguise.

Maybe it's fitting that Halloween is just around the corner. It makes it easier to pretend these prehistoric-looking tortilla chips, which have been crawling through cracks in the sills and sticking to my curtains, are just ladybugs in costume.

But it's hard to suspend disbelief the moment the stink bugs startle at my gall – trying to sweep them back into the great outdoors from the warmth inside – and ooze their stench of putrid cilantro.

“Cilantro?” my husband scoffs.

“That's what they smell like, cilantro.”

See, I have that gene … the one that makes cilantro smell like soap and taste like mashed bugs. Not that I know what bugs taste like. But that's beside the point.

These agricultural pests are relatively harmless to people, but they are tenacious. They stick to textiles as if they were affixed with glue. They are slow moving when they aren't flying, yet they seem to appear out of nowhere.

Evidenced by the blood-curdling screams of my children when they are brushing their teeth and one of these shield-like bugs sneaks up behind them.

“What is that thing?”

It doesn't matter. If it's small, has a segmented body and spindly, jointed legs, I will be expected to drop everything, run to the scene of the disaster and take care of the relocation and remediation.

I've decided it helps to know what I'm dealing with.

Is this a biting thing? A disease-carrying thing? A harmless thing? Is it the kind of thing that will make me want to find new homes for the pets? Is this something I can crush with a shoe? Spray with hairspray? Trap under a glass and put into the basil patch?

What happens if I just throw it – damp bath towel it's clinging to and all – into the washing machine?

Will it come back to haunt me?

Probably walk right up the porch steps one night at ring the bell.

After all, how many trick-or-treaters have shown up at our door wearing red wings, black spots and antennae?

I figure it's only a matter of time before kids start dressing up as stink bugs.

Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.

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