Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Past Deadline: No Chair Jumping Necessary

I have a confession to make. I have trouble with bugs.

No no no…I don’t mean I’m infested. I mean they make me a bit twitchy. Give me snakes, frogs, toads, worms any day. I like it when fish nibble my toes. I live with a turtle. Even though reptiles and amphibians can sometimes show up in surprising locations, my momentary startle quickly transforms into: “Oh, cool!”

Bugs? Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong. I know insects are important. Many of them are beautiful. I have no quarrel with bees or butterflies. I absolutely love dragonflies because they are gorgeous and fly in squadrons to eat pesky horseflies and deerflies.

Insects and I start to have trouble when they invade my space. Arguably it’s their space, too. Possibly they were there first, even. Likely we have destroyed their habitat and forced them to infiltrate our space, just as we have with so many other creatures (such as deer, bears and coyotes). Somehow, though, I find it harder to come to the defence of bugs.

I’ve written about ants before and how much I did not appreciate their unwelcome visit in our house one summer. Although I understood the temptation of the kids’ sticky table in the den, it was still, in my humble opinion, an entirely inappropriate invasion of my space.

I do not scream and jump on chairs when I see a snake, but my reaction is not far from that when one of those creepy centipede dudes that love old houses shows up. I am especially not fond of the ones that are almost as big as a cat. I was working in the garden on the weekend and a couple of those centipedes scrambled away when I moved some woody stalks. I said, “Ew,” but I did not scream or jump on a lawn chair. Why? Because they were outside. That works for me.

The cockroach factor contributes to this unease. When I was away at school I worked part time for a home-care agency and cleaned for elderly clients. (I know. Hard to believe I know how to clean.) Anyway, one of the clients, who was a feisty petite lady and a real sweetheart, lived in a cockroach-infested high-rise near downtown Ottawa.

It was awful.

I would brace myself and take a deep breath whenever I moved a dish or a canister on her kitchen counter because I knew a cockroach would come scuttling out. Despite the fact I was expecting it and was trying to be brave, I would always emit some sort of involuntary peep. That’s when she’d fly into the kitchen, usually armed with a shoe, and bash the critter to bits.


One of my last jobs for her before I graduated was to help her move things out of her cupboards as they prepared to fumigate the building. Not fun.

My current buggy drama: ticks.


Perhaps you’ve heard the blacklegged tick (deer tick) has started to show up in this area and because they can carry Lyme disease, we need to be aware. Gulp. I’m trying to tell myself millions of North Americans deal with ticks all the time and we just need to train ourselves to check for them when we spend any time in forests and fields. We’ll get used to doing this.

I helped with a children’s outdoor program this winter and we’re in the midst of another one right now, and I find it ironic that with all this work to encourage kids to spend more time outside, along come the ticks to add an ick factor to the outdoors.

It would be easy to overreact and jump on a chair, yelling, “I’m never going outside again!” but there’s something to be said for knowledge.

On the weekend I saw a tick. A friend found it on her leg. A bunch of us got a good look at it and it became a “teachable moment.” I suppose it’s like everything else – snakes and bats and even ants and centipedes. Once you understand a thing and what motivates it, you realize there’s no need to go screaming onto chairs. Just deal with it.

So far so good. (Learn more at or

Published in The Perth Courier, May 27/10

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