My Infestation, Let Me Show You It
September 24, 2009
A couple years ago, shortly before we moved from DC to the Stupid Suburbs, my recently-transplanted-from-California friend sent me a camera phone photo and a hysterical text message.
WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS FUCK YOU EAST COAST
The picture was of the most hideous insect I had ever seen. Including the time I found a cockroach in my bathtub.
(Although cockroach encounters are almost like a bizarre form of street cred for City People. It reaffirms that yes, I am so hardcore in my desire to Walk To Things (translation: Starbucks) that I am perfectly okay with spending half a million dollars to live in a 800-square-foot hellhole.)
Anyway, this bug was ugly. It was obviously some kind of beetle but the kind of beetle that would eat ladybugs for lunch and then poop out some kind of flesh-eating disease. All over your face. While you slept.
I texted back.
HOLY FUCK KILL IT KILL IT I AM THROWING SHOES FROM HERE.
My phone was silent for a few minutes. And then.
FUCK IT CAN FLY IT CAN FLLLY FUCK
And a few minutes later, she called.
"Cilannnnntrooooo!" she wailed.
"Cilantro! I squashed it with Skip's shoe and now the whole room smells like rotten goddamn cilantro."
(Skip is her husband.)
We both got on our computers and started Googling "cilantro smelly rotten egg beetles" and quickly determined that it was a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. A nuisance bug accidentally introduced to our continent from China, like a plague of mass-produced lead-painted Thomas trains. And we learned that by squishing the sucker inside her house, my friend had essentially broadcasted to every other stink bug in the area that her house was a nice warm place to infest.
"That's stupid," she said. "That's the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Come to this house, bugs! They have shoes! It smells like death!"
Then she fell oddly silent, and asked if she and her son could come over for awhile.
"Amy," she whispered. "There are like, five more of them on the outside of the screen door. They're just...sitting there."
"Oh my God," I whispered back, for some reason. "Grab your keys and the baby and get out of there. Don't worry about anything else. We have diapers and blankets and you can borrow clothes if you need them. Just GET OUT OF THERE."
When she arrived, I immediately told her about the time I found a cockroach in the tub. To this day I will never understand why she moved back to California.
And now we live in the suburbs. And every fall it's the same disgusting thing. Stink bugs all over the outside of the house and window screens, waiting, plotting, inevitably finding their way inside. Mosquitoes, too. They sense their imminent wintery death and go completely berserk in September, biting you through seventeen coats of DEET, making every trip outside to drop wine bottles in the recycling bin an exercise in terror. This year, we have a nest of yellow jackets in the flower bed right outside our front door and Jason found a dried-out snakeskin near our dryer vent. And then there's the fucking CRICKETS. And then! Three days ago I noticed some other giant (HUGE) mysterious beetle-bug-thing on one of our windows, and as I have considerable problem-solving skills, I simply closed the window to trap it, because it just looked entirely too substantial to crush with a tissue. As of right now, the thing is STILL NOT DEAD YET.
It's all so gross, this stupid nature.
This year seems like the worst one yet, though. Almost Hitchcockian. The stink bugs just all simultaneously APPEARED yesterday. I noticed one on the crown molding in the living room...right as I heard the telltale buzzing of another one taking flight behind me behind me don't land on me don't land on me gaaaah. I lowered the window shades and HOLY FUCK, they were everywhere, just sitting there. First-floor windows, second-floor windows. I checked all our screens for points of entry and armed myself with the Shop Vac.
We have a service contract with a pest control company, and twice a year they come out and spray for termites and check the perimeter and windows and set out little sticky traps to see if we can figure out how the fuck all these bugs are getting in and twice a year the visit ends with a baffled shrug.
Yesterday, I think I cracked the mystery.
(Oh hey, if you're still reading at this point but are like, itching from head to toe a little bit? You might want to finally cry uncle and bail.)
So ever since the Great Fertilizer Dog Buffet Debacle and subsequent shutting down of the Canine Liver Contingent, we've been diligent composters. Yesterday, however, I left the pile's offerings (bruised section of peach, apple core, lettuce) sit out on the kitchen counter for juuuuust a bit too long, as we've yet to buy a suitable indoor container. I went to toss a banana peel on top and OH MY GOD, a fucking mushroom cloud of fruit flies sprang from its depths. I gagged and grabbed the nearest bowl (Sorry, Dora the Explorer), swept everything into it and bolted outside to deposit it in our composter.
(EXHIBIT 28430290 OF WHY HIPPIES ARE STUPID, DAMN DIRTY)
As soon as I opened the back door, the stink bugs attacked. Five or six of them flew towards the opening at top speed. I shrieked and slammed the door shut. The motion once again disturbed the flock of fruit flies who were following me and my bowl of mush like the Pied Piper, and a stink bug ricocheted off the door frame and landed on my hand. I dropped the bowl and shrieked again, and the bug fell off my hand...and into my shoe.
(Gardening clogs, okay? That I promise I only wear for GARDENING. And picking up dog crap. And fine, maaaaaybe taking Noah out to the school bus sometimes but it's just because they are usually right there by the door and that's just really convenient.)
At this point I probably looked and sounded like I was being attacked by bees. Or sharks. Or hell demons. I kicked off my shoe and sent it sailing across the yard and stood there for another three or four minutes shaking my limbs and hair and clothing while gasping out stuff like "ew ew ew ew ew shit shit shit."
When I stopped to catch my breath and retrieve my shoe and Dora bowl (opting to allow the compost to stay where it fell, providing all kinds of essential nutrients to the wood of the back deck), I made the mistake of surveying the back of our house.
Stink bugs. Everywhere. On the brick, on the windows, on the gutters. I slooooowly reached for the screen door handle and I SWEAR, they all fired up their wings, ready to attack.
I dashed in as fast as I could, slamming the storm door closed (AND LOCKING THE DEADBOLT, BECUZ I ARE SMARTER THAN THEM BUGS). I walked over to the sink to deposit the bowl...and felt something on my ankles.
Two mosquitoes. I smashed them, leaving smears of blood on top of the already-forming welts. (FOUR BITES, already. FOUR.)
And that's when I noticed something in my hair. Multiple somethings.
You guys. They rode inside the house IN MY HAIR.
By my count, THREE OF THEM. I have since vacuumed up one, another is MIA (shakes hair shakes hair shakeshair), and I have cornered a third one inside the living room blinds, unable to coax it quiiiiite close enough to where my vacuum can get at it.
(And just for the sake of completeness, besides the two mosquitoes that used my ankle as some kind of illegal border crossing van, minutes later I found a third one, BITING MY BABY ON THE FACE. Without thinking, I smacked it off him [AND THUS, HIS FACE], which shocked him so much that he did the whole heartbreaking face-melting-sobbing-real-tears thing, and then STILL woke up this morning with EIGHT gigantic angry red bites on his face and legs. Obviously, the suburbs are dirty, disgusting and absolutely no place to raise children.)