Thursday, August 30, 2012

Past Deadline: Gone Buggy

I like snakes and turtles and frogs and toads and salamanders and such, but I readily admit I have trouble with the insect world.

I try not to pass this squeamishness on to the kids. I have seen the effect this can have – for instance, children notice when parents who loathe snakes kill them on sight. Not good for snakes.

My dislike of insects has mellowed a little over the years, so I am not as likely to squeal when a bug creeps up on me. This was not always the case, however.

When earwigs first invaded this part of the country, I was a kid. I think, actually, earwigs are to blame for my squeamishness. They were everywhere. They didn’t bite (at least not me), but those pincers made it look like they would.

Earwigs love to be under things, so I had a ritual of inspecting my bed – even under the mattress – before climbing in. If I ever found something, the neighbours heard me shriek.

That was a long day ago, though. Now I am more likely to gasp, and perhaps curse, if an unwelcome insect surprises me.

Up until recently, my six-year-old daughter has been fine with creepy crawlies. She likes to keep earthworms and caterpillars as pets and has been known to commune with frogs and water snakes.

This summer, however, she has shown some distressing “girlie” tendencies. She worries about swimming with fish in lakes. She won’t get into our wading pool if there is any sign of an earwig (there are lots) or spider (yes, I know they’re not insects, but they still fall under the “Ew!” category) or any other bug – even though they are usually drowned.

Our wading pool is located under a very old apple tree. We love this tree – it’s shady and fruity and quite pretty. It can also be messy, though. We’re constantly fishing apples and leaves out of the water. Because it is old and because it isn’t sprayed with pesticides, it can also be a bit buggy. Woodpeckers love this insect haven.

Girlchild is convinced the little pale worms that fall from the tree are maggots. Somehow telling her that they are worms – not to mention dead – does not improve their appeal. I cannot imagine why. There is much shrieking.

Perhaps her issues will be restricted to watery things. After all, she has been known to pluck and dispose of the little green worms that devour our rose bushes with nary a qualm – which beats my track record.

The first summer I worked at Murphys Point Provincial Park (about a million years ago), one of my tasks was to help with the gypsy moth monitoring program: the invasive species du jour.

A few different species of trees had burlap sacks wrapped around their trunks. I had to check the trees at a certain frequency and count the number of gypsy moth caterpillars under each sack and record them. I think this was to determine which tree they liked best.

Oh, how I loathed this task – purposefully seeking the buggy surprise. I cringed each time. Then, to top it off, I was instructed to kill the caterpillars. After all, they were devouring the forests.

The study area was located in a hollow next to the in-road to the gatehouse. I can still remember the strange look on the faces of one couple as they drove in and saw the skinny girl in a park uniform standing in a gully, beating a tree with a big stick and squealing when caterpillar guts flew in her face.

“Yes, I’m fine. Nothing to see here. Move along, please.”

Bugs. Just one more thing that brings out the best in me.

Published in The Perth Courier, Aug. 2/12

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