“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Vermin” Chapter 103
By Bruce Williams
“I killed 25-30 stink bugs in Lou’s room. She won’t sleep in there…” I get my wife’s text while I’m leaving work and immediately call Orkin, who I’ve got on speed dial now. They set up a comprehensive program of caulking and indoor and outdoor spraying—the full chemical cocktail because when it comes to vermin, I’m no naturopath—set to come this Wednesday. We’ve had them out for sugar ants (crawling creepily through the electrical sockets) and fruit flies, who apparently no longer need fruit or any other form of compostable food on the counter to feed their exuberant clustering. Often, if I can’t get the bug guys out right away, I’ll try a Google or YouTube remedy…it was kind of fun watching the fruit flies slowly sneak down to their drowning deaths in the apple cider vinegar/dish soap concoction I microwaved and left out on the windowsill. It was all clear in the morning and there were about forty of them sunk down there in the bottom, but after I dumped it out, there they were back the next day—they might as well have been gnatting about in the shape of a giant middle finger, because that’s what I felt like they were saying to me.
The unseasonably warm weather is a huge factor both this and these past few years. When in Washington do you remember 90 degree Augusts, followed by 80 degree Septembers, followed by 70 degree Octobers? You don’t. You’d have to be an idiot not to recognize the climate changing right before your eyes, and I have no emotional capital left to spend on those that refuse to acknowledge it. Take for instance the now annual forest fire haze we experience every year for a couple of months in late summer. Things are changing and the bugs are getting ginned up about it.
Ants alone, I read recently, compose more mass than all other living creatures combined. Roll up a big ball of humans, oxen, polar bears, New York rats, what have you, and that big black and red ball of just ants is supposed to outweigh it all. Now I don’t feel so bad about spending many a childhood afternoon blowing up anthills with firecrackers. Michelle woke me up on several mornings this year in full breakdown by the ants in the kitchen, scurrying about with the first light flick. She even tossed both her Kuerig and my Cuisinart coffee pots because they’d been clustering about them, searching for wayward grounds and succulent moisture. Those ants are costing me.
I cleared my lower yard last year—weeds and sticker bushes five-foot high. There were snakes and mice in the bramble, and a giant underground bees nest I managed to avoid getting stung by as I cleaned around it. My neighbors had a service do the same thing this year too, so I imagine we stirred the insectual broth by taking away those habitats and reclaiming those fenced sections for civilization. Our lab mix Clark has been doing his part—I’ve seen him chomping confusedly on a big chalky moth and crunching big, prehistoric-looking oversized beetles. He ate a slug on one of our walks before I could caution him “No!” (he might actually think that’s his name at this point). His piece de resistance so far, though, was when he drug in a garter snake and left it by his blanket. I heard my wife yell my name like there was an axe murderer at the door. I picked up the still writhing, chewed-up ophidian with a paper towel and tossed it in the outside trash can which was still too close for comfort for both mother and daughter (“What if it slithers out of there and comes back in?!”) causing me to throw my hands in the air and ask “Where would you have me put it?”
It’s my understanding that this bugful phenomenon is not exclusive to our house, judging by what’s going on at my sister’s and coworkers’ houses and from what I’ve seen on the neighborhood gripe page. And since when do giant beetles fly, too. Are they evolving superpowers? It’s not like we live in an old, decrepit shack—this house is only about six years old. I guess my only recourse is to keep the exterminator on retainer and have them out to do their thing. “Does he have to lean on the counter and tell me everything he’s doing,” she asks me, “or can he just get rid of them and keep them gone?” I honestly don’t know.