Robert Hitt Neill column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 10, 2009

With November come the ladybugs

As we discussed last week, November is one of the finest months of the year out here at Brownspur, a month to have Odes written to it. But there’s one aspect of it that I’m reminded of this week that we could do without: the bug invasions.

Oh, there’s less mosquitoes, and praise the Lord for that!  But this is the month when, after a near-frosty morning, other bugs come swarming out as it warms up a little. I just walked out on the screen porch, after glancing out the den and kitchen windows. We are literally covered up with ladybugs!

Now, ladybugs are Good Bugs. Back when I was farming cotton and doing my own bug-checking for boll weevils, bollworms, plant bugs, and other evil beings of the insect kingdom, Brer Beau and I would actually count the ladybug and lacewing larvae on cottonstalks, in addition to the Bad Bugs and their eggs. If we had a high worm egg count, but also a high ladybug count, we’d often opt to not poison, coming back mid-week to verify that the Good Bugs had hatched out and eaten up most of the Bad Bugs, which they’d often do. Sometimes we’d have to hit it with a dose of poison, but we tried to let the predator bugs do their thing.

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However, we right now have a screen porch full of ladybugs, most of the house windows are crawling with the little round spotted creatures, and we ain’t got any bollworm eggs or Bad Bugs to feed them with. Yet I hate to kill a Good Bug, so will try to sweep them off the screens and windows before Betsy gets back and orders me to lower the boom on them, Good Bugs or not.  

They’ve managed to sift through the vents of the upstairs air conditioner, and I did spray, then sweep, up there. Piles of dead ladybugs: what’s Mother Nature coming to?

Then there is another insect pest which gangs up this time of year: wasps!

I am a self-confessed waspophobic: I’m not allergic to their stings, but I am terrified of them. If I had been captured by the bad guys during the war and they had wanted the secret plans I knew about to prevent the invasion of the Nuclear Weapons Plant at Goose Hollow, all they’d have had to do was to shove me up close to a nest of those big mean man-eating red wasps, and I’d have spilled my guts, excuse the expression.

I have calmly let tarantula spiders walk across my arm without flinching. I have survived three strikes by poisonous snakes. I have endured the effects of tick-induced Lyme Disease for three decades, been bitten twice by flesh-rotting brown recluse spiders, and struck three times by lightning, but let a ground bumblebee hover at eye-level, and I will reduce my surroundings to rubble in my wild attempts to escape and/or kill that huge ugly bee with the stinger projecting almost an inch from its rear end.

Betsy and I went down to our neighbors’ house the other day to borrow a table from Mammy Grudge Mud Pottery in the Caboose. They are in the midst of a remodeling project, and some of their furniture has been stored in a moving van parked in the driveway for about a month.  

We walked around to the back, where David flipped the latch on the door, and shoved it upward about two feet with his initial push. All three of us were momentarily frozen (me, with horror) as literally thousands of wasps came pouring out of the gap at the top of the rear door! I did recover quickly, to evacuate that vicinity, leaving David and Betsy to deal with the swarm of wasps. After the first cloud of insects had dissipated somewhat, he made as if to pull the door shut again – and another horde of wasps burst forth!

No one got stung, for some reason, but neither one of them were near’bout terrified enough, in my own judgment. But Betsy’s like that: she doesn’t panic well atall. Why, I remember once when we were sitting out by the Swimming Hole sunning and reading, and a ground bumblebee came along and lit right on the bridge of her sunglasses – and she just sat there!  

Until I whacked the bee with my rolled-up magazine, that is. Broke her prescription sunglasses, and the dying bee stung her in spite of my heroic efforts on her behalf. Then she got mad at ME, not the bee!

But I’m positive that it was the bee sting that gave her both black eyes.