Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Improper Poll: When Bugs Attack

Last week's responses reminded me of the many bug encounters I’ve had throughout my life. One of them was when I was a teenager and a cicada flew into my hair while I was sitting around a campfire in the woods. My so-called friends did not rescue me, but instead ran away, pointing to my head with horrified faces. If hair came with an eject button, I would have detached the whole river-soaked business off my head and started over with a fresh, cicada-free batch right then and there.

But the most frightening was when I lived in Richmond Hill, Georgia, outside of Savannah, and was laying sod. I’d pick up a slab and slap it against my torso and walk it to where it needed to be. One of those times I dropped the sod, a furious mass of fire ants was left. On my chest. Like a bib you might wear for eating lobster, but picture the lobsters eating you instead, hundreds and hundreds of them, in miniature perhaps, but vicious and venomous and really really angry that you just moved their house, and with no rubber bands on their little pincer claws.

I had never encountered fire ants till I moved down South. But when I did, I was shocked that Southerners matter-of-factly train their children to avoid “fahr ant” nests and then go about their business as if it’s normal to have these subjects of a sensationalistic National Geographic special living all around you.

Fire ants masquerade as normal ants, but they have a bite that stings like fire, furious dispositions, and a talent for working with their brethren until they are one oozing mass of killer destruction. I admit that even as an adult, I couldn’t resist the temptation to poke sticks at fire ant hills just to watch them come boiling up out of the bowels of hell like a mini-volcano spewing a molten mass of teaming ant-fury. If the children were bored, sometimes we’d go on fire ant expeditions in the backyard. I know it was a horrible thing to teach my children, but those creatures never ceased to fascinate me.

Which is perhaps why I was always blundering into their nests.

During the Sod Incident, they were moving en masse up my shirt, mere inches from engulfing my face like the victim in a bad horror flick. As if in a nightmare, I remember trying to scream and nothing came out but a strangled little sound. “Urk.” Which is probably a good thing, because I didn’t need to attract attention disrobing there in my front yard. I was also flailing and running faster than I’ve ever run in my life. Once in my garage, I flung my tee-shirt as far as it would go and did a heebie-jeebie dance that lasted not only through a hot shower, but through the better part of an hour, and then returned periodically throughout the day…and ever since, as a matter of fact. I am in fact heebie-jeebieing right now.

Because although that was about ten years ago, to this day I panic a tiny bit when I see an ant, even the benign Northern kind. You never know if they’ve mutated….

Have you ever been attacked by bugs?


  1. Yikes! I've never encountered a fire ant, but your post was so vivid, I'm now all itchy.

    I got stung by a wasp once. It was an early summer morning and my turn to run to the store to buy the morning paper for my dad. I leaned against the front door, where the mailbox was attached, and a wasp must've nested there for the night. It flew out and stung me. I woke up all my sleeping siblings with my terrified screams. It took awhile for my dad to get the stinger out--and I still have a tiny scar.

    I'm still cautious when I open a mailbox for fear a wasp might get me--or even a snake. I once heard a story . . .


  2. Oh, what a dreadful story! I had trouble enough laying sod without it being infested. No wonder you get the heebie-jeebies just writing about it. We have red ants that bite, but they don't seem to work as a team, and they don't boil up from anywhere.
    Brrr, gives me the collywobbles just to think of them coming up out of a nest in your back yard. I would move my children to an apartment before I'd teach them to tease "fahr ants" because I'm such a chicken.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  3. Hey, we came close to moving to Richmond Hill once!

    Here's my insect story: Several years ago, in spring, I was preparing one afternoon for my art students and I opened my front door which has a screened entry. It was then that I heard them--BEES! There was a huge wad of them, at least the size of three basket balls hanging in the corner just outside my entry! The elememtary school bus stop was right in front of my house, and school was over for the day. Any minute that bus would stop and I could just see some boys start throwing rocks at that wad of KILLER BEES. I called 911, and asked them to send the fire department before the kids got off the bus. "WE don't do that for bees," I was told. I was furious! They told me to call my pest control company. I tried to explain that this was a public health issue, but they wouldn't listen. So I had to pay $150 to have the bees, all 10,000 of them (according to the pest control company)shot at with a thick white poison that dripped all over the concrete, but did NOT kill all those bees. They had to come back a second time!! Meanwhile, the bus came and the children were safe, no thanks to 911!!

  4. Yikes! I'm hebbie-jeebieing right now, too!

  5. Eeew, I'd have doused myself with a hose while doing the heebie jeebie dance. I was stung in the right cheek by a hornet. Had to go to college that evening with a hideous monster face, right side swollen and features unidentifiable, left side normal. Oh yeah, people asked and gasped.

  6. Poor Tammy! Those fire ants are nasty buggers; and yes, here in Dixie they are prodigious. My 17-year-old is allergic to ant bites, so we've been carrying an Epi-Pen as a matter of course since she was 3. Never had to use it, thank goodness. Steering clear of anthills is second nature to her. And bees. And spiders. If it bites/stings, she has a pretty rough reaction.

    Your cicada story made me laugh. Years ago a cicada happened into my kitchen. I sprayed it with Raid, hairspray, Pledge. . .darn thing thought I was dispensing recreational drugs. I finally called my dad and he came to the rescue. He slid a flyswatter under the cicada and picked it up, then put it outside and it actually had the wherewithal to fly off in spite of the barrage of aerosols. My dad teased that it would be back for "drugs" with all its friends because my house was marked as "Cicada Party Central." LOL

  7. A bumble bee hit the outside mirror on my Chevy Chevette on winding Highway 8 in Crawford County, Missouri. From there, it bounced in the open window and into my shirt pocket. The angry buzzing distracted me, so I reached down to flip it out of my pocket. That was not such a good idea at 50 mph. Next thing I knew, my car had rolled three times, in slow motion, it seemed, and was resting driver's side down in a ditch. I had a concussion, a dislocated shoulder, and an abrasion on my arm. Other than that, I was just fine. The car...not so much. Always wear a seatbelt.

    I am SO glad I don't live in fire ant country. This morning my husband reported that he had been stung on the neck by a wasp. I've never been stung by one, and I'm the person who knocks down eight or ten nests around the porch every summer. He said, "Yeah, but you use spray on them first. This nest was as wide as a basketball. I knocked it down with a broom handle." Well. There you go. Poor planning on his part.

  8. No insect attacks. But I HAVE gotten attacked by killer tomatoes. Oh, sorry...that was just a movie.

    Tammy--Please send your email address to sroslawski(at)yahoo(dot)com. I have an idea...

  9. Once again, you all amaze me with your stories! I understand being scarred by that in more than one way, Donna! And Kay, I hope I haven't dissuaded you from traveling to the southern U.S., which really is a country all its own. My new favorite word, thanks to you: collywobbles! Judie and Lisa, your stories of mutant drug-resistant bugs are both frightening and hilarious! Linda, no time for hoses; I had seconds. But oh, your hornet-stung monster face!! And omg, Val, glad you survived. Thanks for the empathy, Mama Zen! Sioux, ideas sound fun. Hope it doesn't involve bugs and/or tomatoes!

  10. I was on a boat for a small wedding and it happened to be some kind of June bug like insect that swarmed all over, omg, it was so disgusting. I can't stand June bugs and these almost like it, blah.

  11. ROFL, your southern dialect is perfect! I ran into them in Glynco, GA. I hate bugs and have no prejudice, squash them all! :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow


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