Thursday, June 21, 2012

Because I Said So: Bugs not peskiest pests of summer

Those who point to the lowly cockroach (Periplaneta americana) in illustrating resiliency, noting that after the apocalypse only that little bug will survive to inhabit the world, don't know the stubbornness of a five year old who has seen a cockroach in the living room. Nor do they know the awe with which that child will be in when he discovers such a creature inside the house. Inside the house!

"It's on the wall," he'll announce, leaving the room again to scout the situation. "It's on the ceiling now," he'll come back to say. "There's a cockroach in the living room," he'll remind you, three minutes later.

Pests. It's what today's Because I Said So column is all about.

Bugs not peskiest pests of summer
There are bugs in my house. I'm not ashamed of it; it's inevitable this time of year. Those of you in the South understand that when the weather turns hot and sticky with humidity, when the nighttime temperature fails to dip much below that of noon, a whole new phylum of life will emerge from the ground to invade our homes. And those of you from elsewhere certainly have children now broken free from the chrysalis of elementary school and know what it's like to find half a Pop-Tart where you weren't expecting it, or a casually discarded pizza crust beneath a piece of furniture to create a sort of vermin vending machine.

So, yes, there are insects in my home.

But the true pests this summer are the smaller children who find it necessary to tell me about every single cockroach, spider and beetle they come across as if they're conducting a silverfish census. With the intensity and focus of a trained pointer dog, they are able to pinpoint a bug's location from two rooms away.

The kids are mortified by them all -- gnats, weevils, wasps, cicadas, bees, flies, ants, daddy longlegs and damselflies -- regardless of size or the ability to fly, leap and scurry just to attack them. So this infestation of junior entomologists comes into my office like a swarm of locusts, breathless as though they've barely escaped with their lives, to tell me that -- gasp! -- "There's a cockroach in the kitchen!"

And this is what really bugs me.

I'm expected to rouse myself from where I lie on the couch in my office with my eyes closed, working, and take up a magazine or flip-flop to dispatch a spider. Because my duties around here include getting that one thing down from that top cabinet, changing the light bulb in the closet and killing any insects scouted by the children, I have to get up and go hunting.

In the interest of staying on that couch, I've suggested that they name the arachnid, that the cricket or moth become a new pet, a best friend of sorts. They have yet to buy into that plan, such is their fear of the bug and their utter disbelief that it is now on the ceiling.

Am I happy to share a house with the occasional insect? No, of course not. Would I be happier in blissful ignorance of every bug that scampers beneath the piano? Definitely.

It's all good training for the kids eventually to become the worst census takers ever as they can't discern one bug from another. The six-legged visitor making its way up the woodwork, as far as they can tell, is the same one they saw last week inching its way across the back door threshold.

Granted, it could very well be the same one from day to day. There are those times when the alarm is sounded that I simply walk into the kitchen for a fresh cup of coffee and tell them I took care of it. Instead of risking life and limb, and a perfectly good magazine, to climb on a chair and smash it against the ceiling, I just wink and tell "Jiminy" or "Charlotte" to have a nice day.

Richard J. Alley is the father of two boys and two girls. Read more from him at Become a fan of "Because I Said So" on Facebook:

© 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.