Category: Insects

Notice of Eviction

Dear Unwanted House Guests,

The funny part is I do not remember you actually asking if you could live here.  There was no ad placed on Westside Rentals touting “a fun place for silverfish to hang out and do their thing.”  I received no applications and no permission was granted for your admission.  In fact, I expressly remember boarding up what I assumed was your favorite entrance with a totally insect-proof wall plate.  Yet, you ignored all the warning signs and chose to wreak havoc anyway.

Had you asked nicely if you and your dozens of offspring could lay eggs and take up residence in my laundry basket, I still would have said no.  Why?  Because I’m insectist.  This may not be very Buddhist or vegan-friendly of me, but I’m sorry.  You are NOT wanted here.

I never received a deposit for the tissues I’ve wasted returning your cousins to the dust from whence they came.  Nor do I remember a contract with a panic attack clause, which would have cost you extra.  Not only that, but you’ve kept me up at night, literally, wondering when you little heathens were going to strike next.  You’ve sent out messengers to the master bath and guest bath; I’ve even seen some of your relatives in plain view on my walls!  Have you no shame? 

I realize that you like the water.  However, now that it is gorgeous outside, wouldn’t you prefer to set up camp by the sprinkler systems?  I’d even settle for you creeping up across the hall, where our lovely older single neighbor may enjoy your company.  Or perhaps you’d like to pack up your things and move further down the hall to enjoy some authentic Russian cooking next door.

Regardless of where you go, you must go.  Because unless you get a job, establish credit and start paying off the hefty fines you’ve accrued for emotional and psychological damages, I’m through.  I’m kicking you out.  By whatever means necessary.  That’s right.  I’ve been told that Pic powder kills you.  So even if I have to gate my dog from your favorite hang-outs for a little while, I will.  Because I’m sick of it.  Mi casa is NOT su casa.  This is not your crib.  So go pimp another hood with your colony and leave us the F alone.

You’ve been served.  You have 30 days with which to comply or else it’s off with your tiny little heads.


The Giant Armed with a Kleenex Box Who Screams and Swears When she Sees You

P.S.  My four-legged furry bouncer will be watching you.



Before Adam Sandler sold out and made Jack & Jill, he made some better movies like 50 First Dates, The Wedding Singer, and Big Daddy.  And for whatever reason, the way the little boy in Big Daddy cutely mispronounces “caterpillar” has stayed with me, hence the title of tonight’s post.

So why did I name this Capertillars?  Because I saw a caterpillar today and I was instantly upset.

Despite the fact that probably my all-time favorite children’s book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I despise the way caterpillars’ bodies slink.  Nevermind that they usually turn into delicate butterflies, which I love.  I mean, nevermind that they’re the same darn creature in either form.  It doesn’t matter.  With their many pairs of legs fanning their long bodies out like a wave as they clamber across the sidewalk and up the trees, I can’t help but get the willies.

I think this all stems from a bizarre incident that happened when I was about 9 or 10 years old.  Each year for a few weeks, my neighborhood would get completely inundated by these small black caterpillars.  They’d be all over the sidewalk and I’d become weirdly OCD about not stepping on them or having them touch me.  Some of the kids from school would pick them up and let them crawl across their palms, but not me.  No way, Jose.  I was a bonafide chicken when it came to insects, even back then.

Feeling safe that the most recent influx of creepy crawlies had started waning, I returned home from school one day to find both my parents outside.  Dad was swearing and stomping.  Mom was waving from the front porch.  And covering the exterior of my house from sidewalk to doorframe were the thickest, flowiest, most terrifying caterpillars I’d ever seen.  About the size of my thumb, each giant black caterpillar had a flourescent yellow stripe down its back.

Dad was screaming disgustedly about goop coming out of them as he stomped on them and Mom was gesturing for me to come inside.  I couldn’t move.  I was frozen in my tracks.  I couldn’t take one step forward, lest the goop “get” me or a caterpillar fell on my head.  I literally think it took the better side of an hour to get me in the house.  I nearly had a tantrum out of intense fear.  I just knew that the one giant caterpillar over the door was going to flop off and touch me.

It did not.

Maybe it would have been better if it had because to this day, I still jump and shiver when I see a caterpillar.  And I get how the whole caterpillar to butterfly life cycle thing works.  It’s the same insect.  Yet I still hold out my hand to each beautiful butterfly I see.  Go figure.

Yesterday while avoiding my home office and slowly plodding through some freelance work on the living room couch, I noticed there was a bee buzzing around on the balcony.  I shivered, but felt secure, protected by both a thick layer of screen and heavy glass sliding doors.  It flew away and I thought that was that.

Half an hour later, I noticed the bee had long bendy legs and wings, the tell-tale signs of a wasp.  It was actually investigating our porch, zooming around our sun screen from side to side, landing on our haphazardly hung twinkle lights, crawling around on the balcony ceiling and even disappearing into an old curtain runner with hooks.

On my husband’s suggestion, I searched our cabinet for Wasp & Yellow Jacket spray foam, and this morning after noticing the wasp hanging out again, Greg rolled up the sun screen and sprayed where we’d seen the evil-looking insect loitering.  We basically wiped our hands of the problem.  But an hour later, the bee was back.

And even now as I sit here “keeping an eye on it,” the leggy wasp seems to have grown in size — unless they’ve decided to send in the “big guns” to intimidate us.  Honestly, that’s what it looks like he’s doing (in this scenario, I’ve decided the wasp is male, just roll with it).  He keeps buzzing up near our screen and hitting it like he’s pissed off we foiled his nest-building plans.  Honestly, I think he’s trying to get in to give me a piece of his mind…or stinger.  And he’s buzzing around closer to the sliding door, which is bad news for us.  If he starts building a nest there, we won’t be able to get at it with the spray and will have to call in some big guns of our own — a bee removal service.

I am terrified.  Greg went out there in shorts and a t-shirt this morning to spray.  If I was going to go out there, I’d have long pants, long sleeves, a hood, gloves and a face mask to protect me from the poison.  I feel like I should spray more but I’m scared I’ll either inadvertently let the wasp inside to attack me and Brody or he’ll “get me” while I’m out there, or I’ll accidentally spray the foam inside or in my eye or something klutzy, as I’m prone to do.

So in the meantime, I’m trying to show the wasp who’s boss by banging on the sliding door and yelling at it to go the hell away.  I’m not so sure it’s working on the wasp, but it’s definitely working on my dog, who slinked away and is now laying near the door instead of his favorite place in the sun.

I’m headed off to yoga in a few and if I come back and find there’s more than one wasp hanging out on our balcony, we’re going to have a serious problem.  I’ll show them my Hulk impression from the other side of the glass and if they’re not scared by that, I’ll just have to introduce them to my little friend, the massive can of Enforcer Foam.

I just left it there

I’m not sure what came over me.  But ever since seeing a couple of earwiggy bugs near my laundry, I’ve kind of assumed there’s more hiding within my pile of dirty clothes.  But laundry must get done, so I’ve been trying to suck it up, “be a man,” and just “put the lotion in the basket.”  Er, I mean the clothes.

Last night, however, I moved aside the laundry basket to grab a stray grey sock and instantly noticed a black mark hanging out on an old mesh basket.  And that little black mark had teeny tiny hair-like antennae.  “You’ve GOT to be kidding me,” I said out loud.  Though it hung vertically unmoving, I was 100% it was alive. 

I immediately abandoned Mission:  Grey Sock, shoved my laundry basket up against the bug and left the room.

Which, for a woman who slams most every insect to bits and pieces upon first sight, begs the question, why?  Was this me being brave, allowing the thing to stay in my house alive, knowing full well it could either jump out at me at another inopportune time or procreate?  Or was this me in utter avoidance mode, clinging sheepishly to my tail like the cowardly lion?

I think it’s probably a combination of both things.  I was barefoot at the time and didn’t have any of my weapons of choice on hand.  Plus I was sort of in denial and wanted to just forget I’d seen the little stinker.  And of course, there was an itty bitty part of me that thought maybe I was just imagining the antennae…maybe it was just a sock fuzz.  But I’m pretty dang sure it wasn’t.

So now what?  Do I actively go looking for it?  Or do I just forget about it until next time? 

Feel free to post your votes re: 

1.  Am I brave or cowardly?

2.  Should I go searching for any and all bugs hiding behind my laundry immediately and report back?


3.  Should I add a bug zapper to my holiday wish list?

My life, overtaken by bugs

Two days ago, I stepped out of the shower to find a baby spider crawling up the wall.  WHACK!

Last night, I discovered a long, fast multi-legged thing in the track of my closet.  SMUSH!

Five minutes ago, a small spider crawled out of my notepad at work.  GASP!  SMACK! (and another SMACK for good measure).

Why are they following me?  Why are they everywhere?  When I moved to California in 2003, I was pleasantly surprised by how few insects there were in general (nevermind the daddy long-legs infestation in my bedroom).

So what is going on this week???? 

More to come soon…

And the winner is…

Only one person dared to guess the creature I was most afraid of at the Natural History Museum’s Insect Zoo.  What, are you all AFRAID to comment on my blog?  (ba-dum-ching)

So let’s talk about his guess:  the mighty fear-inducing tarantula. 

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I lived in a cheap first-floor apartment, that among other problems – an ex-boyfriend with a jealous new girlfriend and moldy holes in the wall due to water leakage – was infested with daddy long-legs spiders.  And where was this infestation centered, you ask?  Of all places, MY ROOM.

Every night when I came home from work, I’d find no less than eight of these giant arachnids chilling on the crack between my wall and ceiling — just above where I slept.  I’d calmly grab my econo-sized can of Raid and spray them till they stopped moving, probably doing more damage to my own lungs in the long run than to their nest, then I’d fall into a peaceful sleep.  I am ashamed to admit that I rarely cleared the hair-like carcasses from my wall, but for two marginally acceptable reasons:

1.  I’m short.  I could barely reach them with the can of bug spray standing on tippy-toes on my bed.

2.  No matter WHAT I did, there was always a new bunch that showed up the next day.

It got to a point where I almost named them.  We nearly shared a bottle of chardonnay.  It was awful, but for a time, I became completely desensitized to one of my greatest fears — some unintentional exposure therapy did the trick.  That’s not to say that if a nest appeared in my condo right now I’d have the same reaction.  Okay, I’d grab the can of Raid probably…nevermind that it’s the anti-roach variety.  It still works!

So what’s the point of my little story, then?  To prove that the giant, fuzzy, monster-like tarantula is part of the arachnid family, and therefore was not what I most feared at the Insect Zoo.

And the winner is…(drumroll, please)…the giant African millipede! 

Giant African Millipede

When Leslie brought this sucker out of her enclosure, it was coiled up worm-like and didn’t look half as menacing as I thought it would, but that’s because I couldn’t yet see its legs.  Slowly, the millipede uncurled and began slinking up her arm.  GAH!  SLINKING!!  It gives me shivers just remembering it.  About the thickness of my thumb and perhaps 10 inches long when completely stretched out, the millipede was shiny, segmented and dark.  Upwards of 100 legs shone a reddish tone and were fascinating to watch as they all moved in turn.  I disagreed with Leslie – this creature was most certainly not “cute” as she described it, but I have to admit it was pretty neat to watch its legs gracefully undulate and “do the wave”. 

When she asked if I wanted to let the millipede crawl on me, I immediately grimaced but knew I had to face my fear — I didn’t want to let anyone down!  So I stuck my hand underneath and lo and behold, there I was letting a giant African myriapod dance across my palm.  I thought it would make me ticklish, but the legs felt almost solid and sturdy, tiny brush bristles that tinkled up a piano scale.  Though Greg cut it out of the video, I distinctly remember looking at the camera and saying, “My mom won’t believe I’m doing this.”  Just refer to the post entitled “When Fear is a Good Thing” and you’ll know why. 

After that, it was time to face the tarantula, but not before Leslie dug into a tupperware container full of tarantula “skins.”  Did you know that tarantulas molt?  They shed their ENTIRE bodies, right down to their fangs!  And for educational purposes, the museum keeps several on hand, one of which I held.  I was completely weirded out by the fact that its fuzzy exterior was just as velvety as my dog’s ears.  Anyone want to rub a spider molt on their cheek?

Desert Blonde Tarantula

Leslie then picked up a live female desert blonde tarantula, noting that the museum likes “hairy-legged girls” and let us pet her soft belly.  Each of its eight legs retracted and the spider held still — so still that I wasn’t 100% convinced it was even real.  In fact, I think I was more terrified of the bucket o’ inanimate spider suits than I was of the live tarantula, a species that can live up to 15 or even 20 years.  Side note:  to those of my friends and family with kids, please do not ever let them get a tarantula.  I might never enter your house again.

What?  You thought I was going to “get over” my fear of insects, arachnids and myriapods that quickly?  Come on!  I mean, in the days ahead of the insect encounter, I could barely kill an average house fly, and just over a week afterwards, I still jumped and shook upon seeing two enormous hoppety crickets outside my condo.

But nevertheless, I am proud of myself and can say I’ve experienced something most people are too afraid to try.  That’s right, macho dudes who can jump out of airplanes but are too squeamish to hold a bug in their hand.  I did this.  And that’s gotta count for something.

Until next time, this is your friendly neighborhood Feardom Fighter signing off, just a teensy bit less scared.

All of the Above

After checking out the Natural History Museum’s new dino hall and dinosaur kids’ show this past Sunday, I timidly and somewhat reluctantly entered the insect zoo, where rosy cheeks and sticky hands crowded around tiny enclosures filled with plants. I ripped the Band-Aid off right away and stuck my face up to the glass where fuzzy tarantulas lay unmoving, awaiting their prey. Then I made my way towards the giant stick insects, the almost-cute domino beetles and the ferocious giant African millipede. 

Domino Beetles

As I perused the bugs’ cribs, my heart nearly leapt out of my chest for a cricket, who, upon seeing me approach the enclosure of beetles, promptly crawled towards me and – I swear it – begged with his bulging eyes and wavering antennae to be let out of that inhumane death trap. I never thought I’d feel so much heartache over a cricket, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that the image of that poor little creature’s final desperate moments may haunt me for weeks.

Swarming in a sea of people, I burrowed in my introversion and nearly declared my second fear-fighting challenge a bust. I was hesitant to disturb the insect zoo gallery interpreters, and secretly a teeny bit relieved when I realized I wasn’t going to have to hold a bug.

And then my friend Mitch, who has loudly played the role of wedding coordinator, announcement maker and group activities organizer on more occasions than millipedes have legs, asked, “Do you need me to be me?” That’s when I knew I was screwed. This was definitely happening one way or the other, because Mitch is someone who makes things happen.

Of course, his wife Kim is also someone who makes things happen, and she led me sheepishly to the gallery interpreter, starting the chain of events that eventually led me down into the humid basement breeding grounds of the Natural History Museum’s private insect collection. Serenaded by the rhythmic chirping of crickets, Greg and I were led by Leslie Gordon, the museum’s Manager of Vertebrate Live Animal Programs, through the narrow aisles of insect enclosures.

Desert Iron-Clad Beetle

If it weren’t for Leslie’s calm disposition and clear passion for insects, arachnids and myriapods, I’m not sure I would have made it through the experience. She started us off slow by allowing us to peek in at the fascinating leaf insects, giant walking stick insects and meaty tarantulas. Then it was time to man up or drop into fetal position. I bravely chose the former.

We began small. Leslie gingerly picked up a slate grey desert iron-clad beetle about the size of a quarter and let it crawl around her hand. I touched its back, which felt like a rough stone. And then I stuck my hand in there and let it crawl on me. “How does it feel?” Greg asked me from behind the camera. I told him it felt like I was holding an animal, not a bug. Which is, of course, silly, because technically bugs are animals. But what I meant is that I couldn’t feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickle; I wasn’t at all feeling squeamish. Being prepped to hold the insect and knowing I was in a controlled situation where it wouldn’t be allowed to do anything but read my palm, I was at ease. It didn’t feel tickly or gross. It just…was.

Giant Spiny Stick Insect

I was then allowed to touch a hissing cockroach, much larger in size than the beetle, and clearly it liked me more than Greg, because it hissed when he touched it. Then we took a trip to Mars, because that’s exactly where the giant spiny stick insect looked like it was from. Sci-fi makeup artists and costume designers must get their ideas from this thing. At least 6 inches long, this alien-like insect had the girth of a broomstick with sturdy antennae, bulging eyes and a variety of rubbery textures across its back. If anything like that ever appeared in my house, I’d most definitely have to check myself into an outpatient facility. But here, as Leslie held the bark it stood on, I was able to stroke its back and simply stare in awe.

After a failed attempt at picking up a threatening black scorpion, we arrived at the creepy crawly creature I was most afraid of…but I’ll save that story for next time. Until then, any guesses as to what scared me the most in that room?

Place Your Bets

I know, I know…after I emailed my family and friends and begged them to subscribe and read this blog, I totally dropped the ball and let my abnormally hectic week at work be my excuse not to write.  But in my defense, I was writing so much at work that the thought of turning on my laptop at home and massaging the QWERTY only made me wish it would turn the tables, become self-aware and offer to give me a much-needed shoulder rub.  I nearly forgot that this weekend was my second feardom-fighting adventure:  the Insect Zoo at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

On Friday, I emailed my museum contact to confirm my visit and coordinate my insect encounter.  Unfortunately, the brief digital conversation that ensued led me to believe that I might have trouble entering the establishment itself, much less the insect zoo.  I started doubting that my second challenge was even going to happen.  Which, in a way, diminished my anxiety leading up to today. 

I’m still pretty exhausted, and because I love a good suspense story, I’m going to leave you guessing as to what transpired.  But if you’re gambling folk, feel free to make a little wager by commenting on my blog with your answers to the below quiz:

Which of the following did I see at the museum today (or, for most of you, yesterday)?

A.  A child dressed in a fireman uniform

B.  Dinosaur skeletons

C.  Domino beetles

D.  A Shia LaBeouf lookalike performing as a nerdy professor in a dino puppet show

E.  All of the above

Which of the following did I have a close encounter with?

A.  Butterflies

B.  A tarantula

C.  A giant walking stick bug

D.  A scorpion

E.  A cockroach

F.  All of the above

Which of the following did I hold in my hand?

A.  A giant African millipede

B.  A beetle

C.  A child’s hand

D.  A map

E.  All of the above

Stay tuned to find out!

Challenge #2 Confirmed

What is frozen stiff, has at least 8 legs and is posing for a picture with its eyes closed?  Me, on August 14th, as I embark on my next Feardom Fighting adventure by holding a fearsome critter in my hands at a local insect zoo.

Okay, so I realize I may be disappointing some of you by not rising to the challenge and parachuting from an airplane, bungee jumping from a bridge or scaling Mount Everest, but must I remind you that this is ME we’re talking about???  I’m pure poultry; 100% chicken through and through.  And though it may make me lose readers by admitting the following, I must assure you that I will:

A.  Never, ever, EVER jump from a plane unless my life depends on it

B.  Never find myself leaping from any platform if I’m solely connected to the equivalent of a giant rubber band that could snap at any minute


C.  Never turn into a thrill seeker

It’s just not me. 

So why would I allow a giant beetle, fuzzy tarantula or multi-legged millipede to crawl onto my skin?  Well, for one thing, I’ll be in a controlled situation.  A gallery interpreter will be there to tell me anything I want to know about the insect, arachnid, or whatever else they’ll let me touch before we are officially introduced.  As I’m sure they don’t want a lawsuit, there’s no way they’ll let me hold anything that could actually poison or hurt me (at least that’s my assumption).  And, as you may recall, the whole point of my blog is to face my fears.  So while ziplining may have seemed a death-defying stunt, feeling the tiny legs of an insect skitter across my life line is an even scarier nightmare…though it will also probably make me feel more invincible than ever before.

I was once completely paralyzed by my fear.  It started in my toes, like a slow tingle of electricity, then jolted up the small of my back to my shoulders and zapped the part of my brain where logic is stored.  It robbed me of my strength and intelligence and instead turned me into a shaking mess with a four-year-old mentality, if that.

The sad part is that I wasn’t staring into the barrel of a gun or watching someone break into my house.  I wasn’t being cornered by flesh-melting flames; wasn’t fleeing from a pack of blood-thirsty wolves. 

It was summer.  I was about 15 years old.  And I was getting dressed. 

My favorite jeans were in the laundry room downstairs, so I made the descent into the deep dark dungeons of our basement where I once roller-skated and even learned to ride a bike.  My basement had been the scene of countless birthday parties over the years, transformed into a charming Italian restaurant, 50s café or Mexican fiesta by my dad.  My imagination blossomed downstairs while watching movies with friends and having sleepovers.  And it sheltered me, calming my nerves when bleeping tornado warnings threatened to wipe the upper levels of my house away.  In other words, I was in no way afraid of my basement.  It was one of my favorite places, and there, I felt safe.

On this fateful day, I grabbed my pants and headed back upstairs to change, never once thinking I was about to lose my marbles.  While standing up, I eased one leg into the jeans, then the other.  As I pulled them up my to my thighs, I watched the folds unwrinkle one by one with their gentle cotton choreography.  It never crossed my mind that they were about to reveal one of my greatest fears.

It’s hard to say what is actual memory and what continues to trick my mind from this day, but what I can make out of the fog is that it was fuzzy, slinking with great speed up my pant leg, its long antennae and hundreds of legs forcing me to leap in my invisible Air Jordans as my piercing scream rang out.  Pantsless, I scrambled on top of my bed and danced as if my life depended on grape stomping, slapping my legs and thighs to make sure the thumb-sized millipede was no longer attached to my body.  And I watched in horror as it flew across the room under some furniture. 

One thing was for sure, I couldn’t stay in the room with it, so sans pants, I leapt from my bed to the door and slammed it shut behind me.  Then, like anyone would do, I called my mom at work.  And although my voice shook and I was nearly in tears, I was pretty sure she didn’t fully understand the seriousness of the situation, because she told me to trap it in a cup.  Um, a cup?  Over the course of five minutes, the beast had surely ballooned to the size of my entire hand; it would never fit in a cup, and besides, I wasn’t putting my hand anywhere near that thing.

I hung up in defeat, pantsless and alone.  Hoping to snatch a pair of shorts as quickly as possible, I crept back towards my room, foiled by my own idiocy.  In my feeble attempts to trap the millipede within the confines of my bedroom, I’d forgotten one thing:  there was at least a one-inch crack from my door to the carpeting.  And that’s where I found it, scampering hastily back towards me.

My dog, Buddy, perked his ears up and ran towards it, but I knew what would happen if he did.  He’d get eaten. 

I screamed bloody murder and my dog cowered underneath a table as I ran for the living room, hopping aboard a chair.  I needed a weapon.  So I grabbed the first thing I saw.  Not a shoe or a book.  No newspapers in sight.  Nope, what I held in my hands was likely the deadliest weapon within 50 feet:  an antique decorative iron that weighed at least ten pounds. 

And there I sat, wide-eyed, clutching the iron for at least an hour until my mom came home and found me there.  I’m lucky she didn’t check me into a facility that day.  We never did find the millipede, causing me anxiety and insomnia for at least another couple of days.

We tend to refer to this as “The Incident” or “My Episode.”  In retrospect, I should have let my dog eat the giant millipede, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that it wasn’t poisonous or painful or six feet tall.  I let fear get the best of me and without realizing it, I kind of made a promise to myself never to let that happen again.  Mind over matter, right?

These days, although I’m still obviously afraid of many things and have been involved in a number of emergency-type situations, I use my fear.  It snaps me into action.  Like the time that I was working at a summer camp and an older man riding by collapsed on his bike and began seizing.  I immediately called 9-1-1 and gave them all the pertinent information without hesitation.  It’s like the fear tapped into my logic instead.

The same thing happened last night, when my husband called me over and I nearly tripped over my feet to get to him, knowing that something in his voice wasn’t quite right.  Sometime between eating dinner and returning home to rewatch Harry Potter 7:  Part One, his lip had swollen.  My heart beat fast, but we quickly realized he’d taken Motrin for a backache so I kicked into gear and hit the Internet to find the number for the nearest 24-hour pharmacy.  And within about 4 minutes of Greg’s discovery, he was talking to a pharmacist who told him to take Benadryl – already in our cabinet, mind you – which, incidentally, is the first thing I thought of, but wanted to be sure it was recommended by a professional. 

Once that fear had subsided, I turned to find Brody lying in the over-sized furniture foam-filled bean bag chair we know as the Love Sac, his head cocked at an unnatural angle, his eyes glazed over, the tip of his tongue sticking out of his mouth.  I called his name once…no response.  Oh my G-d.  “BRODY??” 

Thankfully, his eyes focused and he wagged his tail in recognition, otherwise my house would have contained one husband with a fat lip, one dead dog and an unconscious wife.  And that was just really not on my Saturday night agenda.