M. Giant's
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Tuesday, October 28, 2003  

Fly Away Home. Please

A couple of months ago, I was working on my computer at home when, above and behind me, I heard the sound of a large insect repeatedly racking itself on the light fixture. Looking up, I saw a golden blur assiduously pursuing its own immolation against the glowing filament. As bugs do.

Trash is allergic to bee stings. It’s what kept her out of the Navy, a task that her better judgment alone should have been more than equal to, but there you are. She’s been stung once in her life, when she was very young, and it nearly killed her. If it happens again, she’ll likely go into anaphylactic shock, lose consciousness, and, best-case scenario, eventually end up in a row of tanks somewhere under an Antarctic ice shelf. She wasn’t in the room at the time that I noticed this particular specimen. So I got up, closed the door to trap it inside with me, and rolled up a magazine to enforce our house’s zero-tolerance policy on bees. With extreme prejudice.

After I spent a minute or so trying to get a clear shot at the flitting beastie, it finally alighted (see what I did there?) and morphed from a angrily hyperkinetic blur into a cute little ladybug. A cute, orange-ish ladybug. Ladybugs are our friends. Even my wife, who hates bugs, likes ladybugs. I opened the door to my study and left it alone.

Some days later, I was up on the ladder painting the trim on the front of our house. I’d never seen ladybugs swarm, per se, and I still can’t honestly say that I have. One ladybug per square foot on the upper panel of our house is not a swarm. It is a lot, though. So I can say that I’ve seen ladybugs lotting.

Then one day on the way home from work, I was listening to MPR and they were talking about how the ladybug population of the state was spiking as summer ended. But apparently these aren’t your garden-variety ladybugs. They’re some kind of specialized Cambodianized or Chileanized or Madagascaranized ladybugs that were brought to America years ago to control the aphid population. And it worked. They did their jobs. Now the only question is apparently whether they’ll have enough aphids left to go around.

There are two ways to identify these special ladybugs. One is that they have nineteen spots on their carapaces. Considering that I mistook one of them for a bee, I don’t think much of my chances of being able to count nineteen spots on one, even if it holds still. An easier giveaway is that they have an M-shaped marking on the tops of their heads. And also lots and lots of friends.

The entomologist on the radio explained that these ladybugs aren’t hostile, and if they bite you at all it’s only because they’re incredibly stupid. But he did say that they may soon be present in sufficient numbers to be a nuisance. And that with the weather getting cooler, they’re going to be more and more interested in getting inside our houses.

And that the ladybugs in our houses next spring will be the ones—and the progeny of the ones—that got inside this fall.

Okay, I thought. I’ve only seen one or two in our house already. We may not be on the verge of being overrun. Plus those two that drowned in my paint bucket must mean we’re in even better shape, infestation-wise.

Since then I’ve seen a couple of them a week inside the house. I’m not to the point where I’m killing them yet, but I have begun scowling at them energetically.

“I don’t think these particular ladybugs are our friends,” I commented to Trash. Like me, she’s on the bubble. She realizes that we may have to deal harshly with them, but she’s not happy about it.

Then I saw something chilling.

Again, I was working at my computer at home. Next to the keyboard was a glass of ice water with a bendy straw in it. It was a glass that Trash had abandoned there, a fact that caused me great relief when movement from it caught my eye.

A red-gold ladybug emerged from inside the straw and fluttered away.

Normally this is the sort of thing you see in a horror movie; a creepy-crawly specimen emerges from or disappears into some wholly incongruous opening, usually while waves of non-union extra specimens course past in the background. I didn’t have the extras this time, but looking at this ballsy harbinger, it wasn’t hard to imagine them.

I’m posting less lately, but if I stop posting entirely in the spring, it’s because the ladybugs will have carried me off. Keep on the lookout for me, okay? Call the Minnesota DNR if I vanish abruptly.

Today’s best search phrase: “Public loogies.” Not with my tax dollars, you don’t.

posted by M. Giant 3:57 PM 0 comments


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