Sunday, November 07, 2004

COLUMN: Ladybugs

"Is there something crawling on me?"

It's a question that will live in infamy.

The other day I had just gotten back from the 'ol lunch hour and plopped down rather unceremoniously at my desk when suddenly I felt an itch on the back of my neck. A co-worker was passing my desk, so I turned to her and asked that innocent question - "Hey, is there something crawling on me?"

I expected a "nope." At the very worst, I expected an "ooh, yeah, there's a little gnat, lemme swat it."

What did I get?


And this was no ordinary "yes, there is." This was a "YES, THERE IS!" complete with widening of the eyes and an all-around look of horror that could ONLY infer, "Why yes, Shane, there's in fact a deadly tarantula mere inches from throttling your jugular. It's been nice working with you. I call dibs on your stapler."

What's a guy to do in a situation like this? We're MEN, we're supposed to be hearty, outdoors-y types -- never the sort to flinch at something as small as a bug.

Ergo, I dug deep into my manliness and let my brute machismo take over. It was time for action. Specifically, the action of leaping out of my seat and yelling, "Ewwww! What? What IS it? Get it off! GET IT OFF!" Macho indeed, my friends.

Yes, there is one thing on this planet that will invariably, regardless of situation or company, make me act like a complete and total ninny. I hate bugs. Spiders, flies, roaches, and especially bees - doesn't matter to me, I hate 'em all. Call me an Equal Opportunity Insect-hater.

"But Shane," you say, "bugs are special, wonderful creatures. They help to pollinate the flowers."

Who cares. Let the flowers die. I'd hose 'em all down in Deep Woods Off if given the opportunity. And don't give me any of that mumbo-jumbo about bugs being an important part of the food chain. Small bugs are eaten by bigger bugs, and bigger bugs need to die, too.

The bug in question that day was my favorite new mistake of nature, one of those Asian beetles.

It's one thing to be a bug. It's another altogether to be a STUPID bug. And I've never come across a bug as stupid as these mutant ladybugs from Hell. And they're EVERYWHERE. I leave work at the end of the day, there's 24 of the things just sitting on my car. I get to my apartment -- my own personal Fortress of Solitude -- and one manages to make its way inside and fly straight at me.

What's the purpose of these bugs? I've sat and watched them. They fly straight forward until they run into something. At that point, their brain runs through its only checklist: (A) Can I eat this? (B) Can I make baby beetles with this? If the answer to both questions is "No," it starts flying randomly again until it runs into something else and the process begins anew.

All I know is they're creepy and stupid and need to be destroyed at all costs. So smart-thinking me hopped onto the Internet to find out more about these microscopic Volkswagens of doom. Turns out that scientists have discovered one fairly good method at stopping the beetle plague: breeding PARASITIC WASPS that happen to think Japanese beetles are a tasty appetizer. (Their main dish? Why, ME, of course.)

Yes, that's right, the miracle of science can quickly replace one stupid, creepy bug with an altogether scarier, stinging, parasitic variety. Thank heavens. One website even had a close-up picture of one of these "helpful" wasps - and yes, it pretty much looks like what I imagined a Cootie to be back in Grade 4. If I think I act like a ninny when one of those beetles is on me, I don't wanna think what I'd act like the day one of these devil-spawned wasp-critters enters my radar.

So if given the choice, I suppose I'll stick with the non-stinging, stupid variety of creepy insect, thanks. Just don't ever tell me one's crawling on me, even if it is. I'd rather live in ignorant, itchy bliss.

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