Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The creepies and the crawlies

As if you could not tell before, I am not having the most stellar of summers. So far, I could call it the summer of 4H, with the h-words being heartbreak, heat exhaustion, hermitage, and heebie-jeebies. I do admit to not being much of a summer person. With the translucent skin of my ancestral rainy sea-coasts, I have a very difficult time regulating my body temperature and a hot day usually ends in a sunburn or a total faint. I am a severe weather wimp. The fifth H of the summer, hydrology, has left my sixth H, house, full of the stagnant rainwater of a wet Michigan basement and a plethora of the weirdest insects I have ever seen outside a tropical rainforest.

Somewhere in June, I lost my yard to weed trees. If you know mulberries, trees of heaven, and elms, you know that they have enough growth-power to eat a whole continent in a decade. They are the kudzu of the northern climates. The thing that is keeping me from donning the pith helmet and wielding a machete and weed-whacker to conquer the lost empire of my yard? Mosquitoes by the truckload. Lawn moths by the blizzard. Spiders by the gazillion. Ants by the army. I am by no means an insectophobe either. I have spent many a happy hour indoors watching the cobweb spiders bungee-jump down from a moving ceiling fan (this has serious comic value if you have never seen it happen!) and I did have (until an unfortunate package delivery) a favorite mailbox jumping spider who greeted me daily. I hang out with the bumblebees, cheer for the hummingbird moths, and delight in the fireflies. But this mess is just an insanity of bugness.

In a late-night ATM transaction, I was mugged by fishflies by the hundreds (my Southern friends know these nasty little bugs as mayflies, the stinky little dragons of freshwater lakes). They were in my car, on my windshield, in my hair! AGH! Every morning I have to brave the gauntlet of spiderwebs between my front door and the car (dozens each day) and the still-kicking catches of dawn they contain. It is way too much to deal with. Mowing the lawn kicks up so many critters that I must have eaten a mouthful of winged things the last time I cut the grass. My skin crawls to consider the things I have run across and it is only mid-July.

Yes, it could be worse. There was the memorable night a few summers ago when I arrived home to be greeted by a giant leopard slug on the side of my toilet bowl. Limax maximus (with an emphasis on the maximus) is a big honking Winnebago of spotted slime. They are the carnivorous Terminator of the slug world. I have no doubt they could choke down a field-mouse as fast as any snake. And I will not even mention how they mate. It is too weird for words and it is a photo you cannot ever scrub from your brain. But, thankfully, this slug was solo and I was still overwhelmed with sliminess until it took the inevitable waterslide into the municipal plumbing system.

So, this summer has not been quite that bad. But let me tell you about basement spiders. I have a particularly pugilistic history with the dreaded longbodied cellar spider. There is just something about their weird legginess and the crazy, jumpy dance they do in their webs when you bump into them. And you will definitely bump into the webs of these prolific weavers. They do not give me the full-on arachnophobic scream of a hairy crawling dinner-plate, but they are just so insidious. Yet, I try to leave them alone as they have a hearty appetite for the other crawlies that will actually bite me. Except for yesterday. Yesterday I arrived home to find a beauty of a specimen, sleek and black and the size of a good coffee mug, having moved in at eye level above my toilet. Peaceful spider or not, I grabbed a washcloth and (pee-pee dance and all) smacked that spider into the stratosphere. I don't go hanging about in the joists of my house, so they should not be weaving where I need to be relieving myself!

And now it is cicada season. Fairly soon, I will be crunching their discarded carapace droppings between my toes and having that uncanny feeling of being watched by the tree bark. Life was so much simpler when it was all ladybugs and grasshoppers. The childhood of kicking over the smallest anthill and watching the ants rebuild is long over. And one day soon, yard-bugs, I will put on a full-coverage outfit and spray myself down with bug repellent and take over your ill-gotten kingdom. Your days are even more numbered, insects. Enjoy them while you can. *evil laugh*

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