Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Even Smart Alecks Need Days Off

 Photo by Laurie Shepherd Heath
Folks, it pains me to rerun an old column, but your smart aleck has been ill this week, and my brain has put up a “closed” sign. While out watering my nasturtiums and hollyhocks today I felt a bug on my arm, and it was an earwig. It reminded me of this column. So, from 2013, I bring you:

The Icebugs of Grylloblattaria
This has been the most beautiful summer I remember in years. Day after sunny day dawns, and we put on our shorts and tank tops and sandals, those of us not restricted by bothersome things like jobs, and go out to meet the delirious, delicious summer day.
We water our gardens, we admire the blooms of our flowers, we revel in the sweet juiciness of our homegrown fruits and vegetables. I have five tomatoes on my single tomato plant, and if the weather holds, they may have time to turn red. Meanwhile I love to touch the leaves and smell the tart muskiness of tomato plant, a scent that says “summer” to me.
The sun discourages, but does not stop, the slugs. I got some of that “safe” slug bait and while it may kill slugs, and I’m not saying I have any proof of that, it is apparently a tasty treat for mice.
Our son told me that every time he went out on the kitchen porch, he heard the scurrying of little feet and saw mice bailing out of the slug bait container and running away. I never saw these mice, but a quick check of the slug bait stash revealed a liberal sprinkling of mouse turds among the few remaining pellets.
Rather than trying to trap and kill the mice, I figured that when the slug bait was gone, the mice would forage elsewhere. Let the problem resolve itself, I thought.
NOTE: this benign neglect method may work with mice, but I have been informed it does not work with raising children. Little tip for you young parents (although nothing you do or do not do will forestall the day 10 or 20 years from now when your adult children will tell you the mistakes you made as a parent), be of good heart. Taking the blame for everything is a little service that parents provide for their adult children.
Where was I?
Another feature of this long hot summer is that the spiders are spinning early. Usually I don’t run into spider webs until August, but this morning I had to clear a web before I could walk out the kitchen door. I can only imagine the size and extent of the webs we’ll have in September.
The mosquitoes have been numerous and hungry this year. Eh, that’s usual here on the edge of the woods.
Speaking of hungry creatures, the deer have stripped the leaves and buds off of my roses three times this year. I don’t begrudge the deer their need to eat. I only wish they wouldn’t eat my roses, then wait long enough for the plants to recover and begin putting out buds before stripping them nekkid again. It’s the repetitive dashing of hope that gets me down.
Lastly I mention earwigs. Earwigs comprise the insect order Dermaptera, according to Wikipedia, which also says, “Many orders of insect have been theorized to be closely related to earwigs, though the icebugs of Grylloblattaria are most likely.”
The icebugs of Grylloblattaria!* Isn’t that glorious? Doesn’t that sound like a science fiction novel?
Earwigs like to inhabit crevices. We all know this from experience. Quite often earwigs will inhabit crevices in flowers I bring in from the garden and a few hours or days later I find earwigs crawling across the kitchen table, or the kitchen counter, or the living room rug. I have an irrational dislike of earwigs, and will usually crush them without hesitation or compunction. They give me the creeps.
So it was extremely creepy when I opened up my bedside CPAP machine the other night and found an earwig inside. Ugh. I walked it into the bathroom and sent it for a quick swim in the bathroom sink. Beats me how or why it got into my machine. The darn thing simply showed up. I guess that’s why I don’t like them – they’re always sneaking up on me. Give me the oogly-wooglies.
Even the most wonderful summer is bound to have some down sides, but all these critters aren’t stopping me from enjoying this summer. Hope you are enjoying your summer, critters and all.

*”Grylloblattidae is a family of extremophile and wingless insects that live in the cold on top of mountains.” – Wikipedia. Now you know.

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