Posts Tagged ‘insects’

I killed a spider last night in my bathroom. I know. I am not proud of this, but in my defense this spider was huge, it was 2:30 in the morning, and he was perched on the toilet seat where I needed to be. I asked him politely to move, but he defiantly raised a leg at me, so I zapped him good with my bottle of vinegar and water and watched as he slid off one side of the toilet seat cover disappearing from view. My daughter would not be pleased. She follows the catch and release program, so all spiders unwanted in her house are humanely placed outside. Sorry. This morning I didn’t see his remains anywhere around the general area, so I prefer to think he was just stunned and not mortally wounded. In either case, he is definitely emitting a scent that will make his pals in the walls crave lettuce and tomatoes. I don’t sound sorry, but I really am. Humor has always been my defense when trying to hide my true feelings. I can’t stand to think I have been responsible for hurting a living creature. Just doesn’t sit well with my being. Last week, I accidentally ran over a lizard by the front curb. After writing a personal note extending my condolences to his family, I went on-line to 1-800-reptiles and ordered a lovely bouquet of crickets to be delivered for his celebration of life. Following that, I spent the entire week doing little acts of contrition in an effort to make amends.

Was I to say my truth on the subject of bugs, it would be, “don’t like em”. Now this is not true of all insects. I rather like ladybugs, love, love, love butterflies, and truly don’t hold any deep seated antimosity for moths, as long as they are flitting around my outside light and not eating a hole in my favorite cashmere sweater. Other than that, I’m not fond of of bugs really. Bees, of course, as long as I am not extracting one of their stingers from my skin, are amazing. Without their little furry behinds, our world would be in a heap of trouble. Wasps, would be a big red check in the no box, as would hornets, killer bees, and whatever that huge new variety is that just showed up inside our borders. No, no, and hell no. Bees actually seem to love me. I’m not sure why. I must have some sort of body chemistry they are attracted to. Perhaps it is because I am sweet? No? Whatever the reason, I’ve been stung quite a few times over the years, the last time quite recently. Thankfully, I’m not allergic, experiencing no serious side effects other than swelling and some really annoying itching for a week or so.

Bee butt

Insect populations vary according to where you are living I have found. While living in the southern states, a place that seems to cultivate bugs at the most alarming rate, there were insects I saw there I found fascinating. These, unfortunately were mixed in with those that made me cringe in horror. Fireflies were perhaps my personal favorite. These diminutive insects are the pathfinders of the bug world, holding their lanterns high in the night sky to guide others along their way. Another ethereal buggie was the mayfly. I remember fishing along the bank of a river in Arkansas. The area, as is true of most sections in that stretch of land, was covered in a mass of vegetation and trees. My ex-husband and I were seated in lawn chairs next to each other on the river bank, both our lines draped across the water. As it was the heat of the day, the only action we were seeing was from the bobbers lazily moving up and down with the currents. Catching movement over my head, I looked up see what appeared to be thousands of tiny fairies emerging from beneath the canopy of branches of the enormous tree behind us. Like a choreographed line of dancers they dipped and swirled in the breeze their delicate wings twinkling in the bright sunlight. Asking my husband, originally from the area, what the spectacle was I was looking at, he told me they were mayflies. Truly, I have to say they were quite beautiful.


My ex-husband and I were always on the move with his job, as I’ve explained often in my blogs. On our first, and it would turn out to be our last, trip to Arkansas we drove across country from the Bay Area. It was early summer, but the heat was already intense. Paired with the humidity, it would have been nearly unbearable to be in the car without benefit of air conditioning. Traveling east on our final day on the road before reaching our destination, we were crossing Oklahoma. At one point, we stopped to gas up and get a bite to eat before turning south on the last leg of our trip. Our final destination was to be Ashdown, Arkansas where we were to make our home for the next year. Though I had driven across Oklahoma previously, never during the summer months. Stepping out of the cool car into the air outside was like going from a freezer to a sauna. By the time I had closed the car door, my sweat glands had already shifted into hyper drive. Aside from the oppressive temperature, it was so LOUD. I can not emphasize how loud it was. What on earth? I deferred to my husband for guidance, as I frequently did while living in the south, asking him what all the noise was coming from. He said the racket was cicadas. Cicadas, he explained, were insects who lived underground only emerging every seventeen years to mate. Whew. No wonder they were excited. I’ve been to heavy metal concerts in the front row and never heard anything like that. How people living directly adjacent to that truck stop got any sleep I have not one single idea. Amazing.


Another interactive group of insects in that part of the world were fire ants. After living in Ashdown for several months our social circle began to grow as we came to know our neighbors and people we worked with. One weekend I was invited to join a group of “work wives” to go gather pecans and do some baking. Having always purchased my pecans from the market shelves, this sounded intriguing to me. Pecan trees are native to Arkansas, and one of the ladies in the group knew a pecan farmer who had given us permission to harvest some of his crop for our personal use. Yay. Though I had lived in Arkansas for a while, I hadn’t settled into the area yet. Totally different in culture and topography than what I was familiar with in California, I struggled with the humid air, and certainly stood out like an onion in a petunia patch among the locals. One group of old timers at a local diner we frequented from time to time, would actually turn their chairs around when I was sitting at a table to watch me eat. I could have sold tickets. It was the first and only time I felt like I held a bit of a celebrity status. At any rate, when I got in the car with the two ladies giving me a ride to the pecan farm, they immediately commented on my shoes and shorts. What? It was well over a hundred degrees that day and the humidity high, I felt a parka and boots to be a bit over the top. I was told shorts when in tall grass or thick bush are not recommended. Ticks and chiggers and God knows what populate those areas and lie in wait for exposed flesh such as mine, not to mention the mosquitos. Secondly, I had on open toed shoes. Wrong again it would seem. Fire ants are prevalent down there and their bite could be quite painful. Can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to arriving at our destination by the end of that informative conversation. All they needed to finish me off, was to tell me there were alligators in the swimming holes. That lesson didn’t come to the forefront until several months down the road.

Arriving at the pecan grove we unloaded our buckets and one of the ladies blessedly sprayed me down with insect repellent to the point where I felt if it had been after dark I would have been emitting a greenish glow. I walked along the rows of trees gathering nuts like a trouper and trying not to think about what might be lurking unseen in the undergrowth beneath my feet. Starting to get a bit overheated, I retrieved a bottle of water from my backpack and leaned against a tree for some shade. It took a minute for my brain to register the pain rising up from my feet, but once it did it was sending out a serious alarm. Looking down red ants were swarming across my shoes and I could feel them biting at my skin. OW. One of the ladies rushed over and pulled off my shoes pouring the water in the bottle in my hand on my feet. The next day I had little pustules all over my feet. Ahhhhh. Aside from that good news, I had picked up a tick which had to be pulled out of my calf with tweezers when I got home. The next time they went I passed. I’d rather get my pecans at the market thank you very much. I’ve never been either bitten or attacked at Raley’s buying nuts. Though, I have to day if today’s news was any indication of the high fever running in this country, I may not be able to say that a month from now. P.S. I’ll tell you about the alligator later. That story made the fire ants look like a walk in the park.

Fire ants

Each place I’ve traveled or lived has proved to provide another piece in the puzzle of my life. Wouldn’t have missed a moment good or bad because each one brought something to the table, some of what was given I threw back but in the long run all of it was useful in one way or another.

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Several times during my relationships it has been suggested by a partner a move to Florida might be a great idea. For me, that would be a negatory. There are a number of reasons why I won’t live in Florida. Not that it isn’t beautiful or doesn’t have a lot to offer. Warm weather, long strands of sun bleached beaches, gorgeous waterfront homes, endless golf courses. What’s not to like? Hmmm let’s see, alligators, bugs the size of migs, energy sapping humidity, hurricanes, and Zika. Need I go on? My only visit there was in early spring. The man I was dating at the time had parents who retired in the Miami area. The plan was to stay with them in Ft. Lauderdale for a few days before boarding our cruise ship on to Key West and then to Cozumel. Our days were spent on whatever beach struck our fancy, taking time out to mill through the myriad of tourist luring shops along the boardwalks. Nights we ate at local restaurants and sat outside in the cooler evening air enjoying a cocktail or just looking at the stars.

On our second day there I noticed something crawling along the wall I first mistook for an animal. Upon closer inspection I realized it had wings and a plethora of legs. My fascination with the insect turned to horror when I realized it was no longer on the wall, but now seated on the rim of my glasses. I’m not a bug person. Never would I have signed up for any science course involving catching insects and pinning them on boards to study them. The very thought has goose bumps parading up and down my limbs.

When I lived in Arkansas, unused to the heavy humidity prevalent there in the summer months, I spent the first few weeks concentrating on getting oxygen to my body. For those of you who saw the movie “The Abyss” picture the scene where they have to breathe in oxygenated liquid. Though Ed Harris didn’t actually breathe in the pink liquid, live rats were actually subjected to such an ordeal during filming and lived to gnaw through another hole in the wall afterwards. I know just how they felt.

High humidity along with encouraging lush foliage and steamy weather, also promotes a healthy insect population. While in Arkansas I became familiar with tics and chiggers for the first time, and welcomed a flea population in my back yard so resistant to spraying it necessitated wearing cowboy boots to mow the lawn.

Wasps and alike, as I’ve mentioned before are number one on my list of insects I could do without. As a child I recall going to Mill Village, Nova Scotia to visit my grandmother’s relatives. Mill Village is a quaint little town originally sustained by logging and lumber. Aunt Olive, as I called her, though in truth she was my grandmother’s cousin, lived in a beautiful old family home overlooking the Medway River. Aside from running a small ice cream parlor towards the front of the property, Olive manned the switchboard for the local residents. Often when we enjoyed a meal at her enormous mahogany dining table she would leave to connect neighbor to neighbor and catch on the local gossip.

Olive, a widow of some years, was a magnificent cook. Pastries came out her kitchen as delicate as angel’s wings, and her breads and biscuits were without fault. Standing in her brightly lit country kitchen you were surrounded by wire baskets of fresh eggs, lines of canisters, and brimming bowls of fruit and vegetables picked from the massive garden lying beyond the gate leading to the pasture. Twice while visiting she asked me to accompany her to get honey for the biscuits. The first time I accepted. Being a kid and not the sharpest pencil in the box, I didn’t connect the dots, honey…..bees. Aha. Hand in hand we stepped through the tall grass in the pasture. Olive, a woman rarely short on words, kept the conversation flowing as we moved closer to a line of stacked white boxes. As we approached the boxes Olive stretched her arm across my chest and instructed me to remain where we stood. Reaching in her apron she pulled out a white hood and pulled it over her head.  Securing the hood and draping it over her shoulder she approached the boxes. In one hand she had a sprayer of some sort. Holding it up she depressed a nozzle dispensing steam around the boxes as she stepped forward. “Bees are quieted by the steam”, she told me while reaching inside the nearest box to bring out a long board dripping with sweet honey. Wow. I saw the bee before it stung me but there was little time to react. The steam may have calmed the majority of the hive but I’m here to say there were a few deserters that were absolutely pissed off. A second sting quickly followed the first and my fat little legs were on the move. As delicious as that honey tasted on Olive’s flakey biscuits I never accompanied her again to gather more and would happily have done without the first batch and the two itchy welts I paid for the privilege of eating it.

It would be an odd world without insects so I have found a way to coexist with them enjoying them from a distance. Our yard is a haven for butterflies, an insect I have made total peace with along with the ladybug. However, I could do without all the aphids who insist on attacking my plants. There you go, balance in all things.

If made as written this soup will make you sweat. For the faint of heart substitute regular diced tomatoes for the tomatoes with chiles.

Spicy Mexican Zucchini and Sausage Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 1/2 oz. can of kernel corn, drained
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 large zucchini, sliced thin and quartered
1/2 cup smoked sausage sliced thin and halved
2 Tbsp. taco seasoning mix
2 Tbsp. salsa verde
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. coriander
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese
Lime slices for garnish

Heat oil in stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and yellow and cook 6 mins. until soft. Add garlic and continue to cook for 1 min. Add remaining ingredients through chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Cook partially covered for 50 mins. Serve topped with cheese and sliced limes.

Serves 6

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