Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bugs Are A-Coming

The arrival of summer means it's time to establish some ground rules concerning our yards. If we are going to share the space with other life forms, it's important to examine our relationship with nature.

I don't like bugs. Based on the appearance of some critters near my home, I'll admit that not all insects deserve the same amount of respect. In colder weather, I'm willing to let bugs rule the outside territory. People spend little time outdoors, other than to walk, rake or trim. While we are in the process of completing these tasks or merely securing the perimeter, we seldom focus on the creepy-crawlers who reside on our sidewalks and shrubs.

With the arrival of warm days and evenings, it's inevitable that we want to linger in the swing, on the bench or at the table. And that's where the conflict appears. The bugs are already there and believe that WE are the invaders. Silly bugs.

I'm using the term "bug" to include all sorts of flying and crawling invaders into a yard. There are other visitors, of course, including (in my neighborhood, at least) possums, raccoons and squirrels. But these guys and I settled our differences long ago. They are big enough to see coming and don't crawl on my plate or grill. So I allow them to share my space.

My real objection to bugs is that they show up where they are least expected and scurry about to avoid being killed/trapped. I dislike anything that scurries, including mice. Mice are really quite cute. They have little ears and feet and even whiskers. But it's the way they move that is frightening. When they suddenly depart a cupboard or venture across the floor -- well, that's what makes women squeal and raise their feet off the ground. It's to avoid touching something that runs around like it has lost all reason.

Back to insects. During a recent series of allergy tests, the nurse advised me that I tested positive for cockroach dust. After announcing this fact, she smiled and added that most people are in denial that they have ever seen a cockroach. However, she added that cockroach dust is scattered at many locations where food is stored or shipped. Restaurants, warehouses, trucks and such can't help but containing some dust. So if we ever walk through a warehouse store or dine at a restaurant, we have been exposed to cockroach dust. Because we tend to connect cockroaches with unclean conditions, most people would swear their home is roach-free, but that's probably not true.

Public Enemy No. 1 on my bug list is … ants. Not the big, strong ants which haul away crumbs from a picnic blanket, but the teeny-weeny ants that first appear around the kitchen sink. Many people see these guys arriving and try to take them out one at a time by squeezing their little bodies. This is a useless waste of energy. I'm not sure why they come in or how they arrive, but millions of people are greeted by tiny ants with the first signs of warm weather. They like my kitchen with its large sunny windows and will show up along the ledge and into the sink late in the spring. Perhaps they like moisture or they are tracking food odors. But they turn me into a crazy woman until I can stop them. Some folks call the exterminator and others buy commercially available sprays. A couple of years ago, an elderly woman told me that the one sure thing to stop the tiny ants is -- cinnamon. She said to sprinkle it around the window or on the counter to stop the ants. She was right. Sprinkling cinnamon along the window did the trick, although it was a bit messy and generally got in the way. This year I found and purchased cinnamon oil, which has really worked to keep them out. It has a strong odor but what kitchen couldn't benefit from the smell of rolls in the oven? The oil wipes on clear (though a bit sticky) and keeps the ants out.

The yard has plenty of places for other critters to hide and live. Yesterday I watered plants in the front yard and when I came inside, I felt there was something in front of my eyes. I swatted it and knocked a small spider out of my hair! His life, I'm pleased to announce, was quickly ended. But the thought of having a spider in my hair was a bit disturbing.

The presence of bugs in the yard brings birds and butterflies into the mix. Who can object to butterflies? They are beautiful and graceful, despite beginning life as a sort of caterpillar-like creature. The population of birds includes red-headed woodpeckers, finches and robins, along with cardinals and blue jays. Occasionally a more unusual straggler with be found, sending me to the bird book to identify a junco or titmouse. Butterflies and birds are my friends and not only bring color and exotic patterns into my yard, but eat some of those pesky creepy-crawlies.

All in all, the yard is a little community of life forms which dwell near my house. They may not like each other but tolerate each other until one becomes prey and the other acts as predator. It makes for a nice arrangement.

Too bad people have so much trouble living among each other. Seems we could learn a lot from Mother Nature.

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