Ladybugs To The Rescue

By BOB WIRE

 

Bugs don’t bother me. There are more insects than any other animal on earth. An estimated 10 quintillion insects are creeping around on the planet right now (obviously an estimate—can you imagine the logistic challenges of a bug census?). That’s a one followed by 19 zeroes, or roughly the number of emails Hillary Clinton deleted from her personal account.

If you have a disdain for all insects, that’s like saying you find air annoying. Or that daylight rubs you the wrong way. Bugs are everywhere. They’re crawling through the carpet, digging into the yard, flying through every cubic foot of breathable atmosphere. Millions of tiny critters are currently writhing around in your mattress right now, but try not to think about that.

Don’t get me wrong—although I tolerate bugs and acknowledge their overwhelming numbers, that doesn’t make me a fan of every insect. I will quickly kill any mosquito, for instance, that is within reach. Silverfish and earwigs? Dead. Catching and torturing houseflies? I’m not above it.

Spiders, although technically not insects, are also on the death list, although I personally harbor no ill will. In the Wire household, I am the bounty hunter and executioner of all spiders because I’m the only one who will get near them. I’m not dumb enough to play footsies with a brown recluse or a hobo spider, but those little garden spiders and bathroom dwellers, well, I’m happy to let them go about their business. But that would not sit well with the arachnophobes I share the bathroom with. Their policy is Immediate Death To All Spiders, accompanied by much terrified shrieking and fancy footwork. I’ve seen a single spider the size of a grain of rice hurl three adult-sized people into a panic that will stop all domestic activity until the tiny homewrecker is crushed and flushed.

ladybugs

I don’t know. They look like they’rehappy.

I always apologize to the spider (“Sorry, man”) before I send it to its watery grave. I do this, I suppose, in an attempt to let myself off the karmic hook. But better to keep my family happy than appease the spider gods.

This live and (mostly) let live bug policy of mine was utterly ignored by a horde of mercenary insects this past weekend, and it really shook my faith in the idea that an understanding can be shared between members of two vastly different species.

One insect on my no-fly list is the aphid. These little bastards smear their glossy goo all over the leaves of my bushes, which eventually kills the leaves, then the bushes. I need my bushes. They keep the neighbors from seeing what the hell I’m doing in the house. So these aphids, of which there are approximately one million per leaf, had to go.

My options for eradication were limited. Spraying dangerous, toxic chemicals onto the bush was out of the question because I don’t have a tall enough ladder to reach the top branches. I needed something organic. When Barb and Speaker returned from a flower and herb run to Pink Grizzly, they brought with them a mesh bag of ladybugs. Ladybugs eat aphids. Ladybugs are adorable. Everybody likes ladybugs. If someone discovered that mosquitoes ate aphids, I think we’d find a way to live without bushes.

The method of ladybug introduction was carefully outlined on the package. It had to be done at sunset or sunrise, it said, and the bush would have to be first sprayed down with water. So that evening, as the sun settled in behind the Bitterroots, I hosed down the aphid-infested bush while Barb opened the package of ladybugs.

“Fifteen hundred ladybugs,” she said. “Doesn’t look like fifteen hundred.”

“Really,” I said, playing the hose over the bush. “Looks more like fifty. Are their names listed on the package?”

She removed a long paper spiral from the mesh bag, and several hundred ladybugs clung to it. She pushed it into the bush, and sure enough, the ladybugs crawled onto the leaves. She put the spiral back into the back and repeated the process several times. Soon enough, the entire bush was alive with the little orange critters.

“All right,” I said, surveying the bush. “Nice, healthy vegetation, a massive food supply, friendly, caring neighbors, these ladybugs have found a new home!”

This morning I went out to check on the situation, to see if these ladybugs were having an impact yet on the aphid situation. You know how many ladybugs I found on the leaves? Go ahead. Guess. Yeah, you got it. Zero. Zilch. Zip. Zed.

What the hell. Maybe we should have sprung for 1500 tiny balls and chains. Where did they go? Did a bunch of birds swoop in and solve our sudden ladybug infestation? Did the ladybugs move on to a better bush situation next door? Was there some kind of aphid uprising, like the ants who turned the tables on the grasshopper in A Bug’s Life? Who knows? What I do know is that I have a large bush that contains approximately 19 quintillion aphids.

I guess I’d better start thinking about putting up some curtains.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blogarchive.

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Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an openmind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.

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