Wednesday, March 23, 2011

THE WINGS OF SPRING


March 23, 2011

They’re back, and how! Amazing how much good luck one household can have. It’s the Invasion Of The Ladybugs again. Swarming all over the place, they are, flitting around my head, crawling into the table lamp. Landing on my keyboard as I - geddoff! – as I type
We never kill them. They’re lucky’ aren’t they. So let ‘em live till the spots disappear, which is their way of going grey, and let ‘em die in their sleep.
I won’t call this an infestation, rather a visitation because I’m not sure you can actually have a plague of ladybugs. That would mean you’re having too much good luck and how is that possible? A surfeit of serendipity. Good luck out the wazoo. Overblessed. Well and truly lucked.
Does this amount of good fortune equate to becoming president as well as king? To winning every lottery there is; to every female in the world wanting you for you, and not the money and position you just won through some gargantuan stroke of... luck.
The ladybugs and (let’s be politically correct) lordbugs too are extremely close friends with the wasps, with whom they hang out. They don’t marry them, they just live together; it’s the modern way.
I used to leave the wasps alone because the ladybugs liked them. And because the gardening books all said they were good to have around to polish off all the surviving aphids and other little nasties that the ladybugs didn’t kill.
Had a change of heart when that first wasp attacked my hand. It was lurking behind an electrical box I’d just installed and decided this area was now its. The bounder. My hand ballooned into a huge grotesque cartoon version of itself although it did have more than the three Disney fingers. When I used this fearful monstrosity to shake my friend Robert Kile’s hand he jumped back three feet. That wasp had created a cartoon scenario.
And here’s where the rules changed. Any wasp, hornet, yellowjacket, spider out in the open: you’re safe. Any inside my house: Bye-ee. Splat!
Yet a giant hornet nest next to the house is another matter. My wife rode right past one while cutting the grass, her head less than a foot from the hive. That night we approached in a car with the windows shut tight. Behind me, Wifey shone a light at the entrance hole and I cracked my window open enough to empty an entire can of death into it.
But bees – come back, all is forgiven. Where were they all these last few years? And where you bees be now? They’ll tell you its nothing to do with the toxic products out there. No, it must be something in the air. Seriously. That’s what some scientists are saying. The fact that the bees are simply not reproducing doesn’t mean something’s happened to their reproductive ability. Not in the least. Perhaps all the queen bees “had a headache” that night. And every night.
Big Chemical will trot out a few tame scientists to conclude it’s not their fault. That it “must be” due to some kind of parasitic fungus attacking the bees. Something airborne perhaps. Yeah, sure, or perhaps they all flew off to another planet.
The only ones I saw last year were a couple of borer bees: a 3/8” and a 9/16” it was. I was restoring the back porch and they could have saved me some work if only they’d drilled where I asked them to.
I don’t mind them, though. Minimal nuisance value and they’re cute. I had a pet mosquito once, but it turned on me. Ha ha ha. Only kidding, of course, although it would be a cool pet to have. Better than a rottweiler because after you sicced it on your enemy you could deny it was yours and not a soul would doubt you.
Do we remember Hollywood’s machiavellian villain Vincent Price in TV ads promoting an electric bug killer, squealing with glee whenever another insect was fried? The problem with these gizmos is that they’ll zap the good bugs along with the bad. Who goes there? Hornet or honeybee? Who cares. Bzzzzttt!
Those bees are our friends, not our foe, and yet we give them the aerial equivalent of the electric chair when they’ve done us no harm, only good. A terrible miscarriage of justice right there. We also kill ‘em by broadcasting insecticides whenever we feel like it instead of sparingly.
Spraying plants that attract bees should be done as early as possible in the morning or in the late evening. Avoid Sevin dust, which bees mistake for pollen, bring back to the hive and thereby kill the entire colony.
The hard winter means a summer with fewer pests, especially the lowly tick, about whom the famous naturalist Charles Darwin once said: “Owww!” Okay, he isn’t the only one ever to fall prey to this little bloodsucker and you’re right, my mind’s gone blank over the actual quote I used to remember.
Ticks are known to lay in wait for up to eighteen years in a kind of suspended animation, then, the instant they scent human or animal sweat, they spring to life and pounce. Just like I do when the smell of Wifey cooking breakfast wafts into the bedroom.
Our cold snowy winter means there’ll be fewer deer ticks to give us Lyme disease and fewer seeds ticks to crawl up our leg and... well, we all know the discomfort that causes. It’s no joke, actually: for horses, cattle and other mammals ticks can sometimes mean death.
So it’s spring. In our house as many ladybugs as possible are picked up gently on the edge of a sheet of paper and transported to a window, where, with a light puff of breath, they’re encouraged to pursue a carefree life among the plants and aphids.
Occasionally (somber Kremlin-style music please) I step on a ladybug that’s decided our floors are for them to walk on too. And that’s where the bad luck comes in. No lottery win. No Oval Office. No monarchy. No adoring females...
But lots and lots of bills.

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.