Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Freaks Come Out At Night

I have been engaged in fierce battle this week with the Taliban of bugs. They are crafty. They are nocturnal. They will stop at nothing to achieve their evil exoskeleton ends. I’m talking about earwigs. If you have never seen an earwig, you have the luck of the Irish, who, if you think about it, really weren’t all that lucky (historically speaking). You are also blissfully unaware of what is living behind your toilet tank.

I first noticed something was wrong when I saw that the leaves of my freshly-planted bee balm were skeletonized down to the stems. However, a quick survey of the area turned up no bug-like culprits. I decided to sneak out that night with a flashlight to identify the source of the leaf-mangling.

I collected my flashlight and tromped across the yard, which took me less than three seconds since my yard is the size of a Chiclet. I aimed the beam of light at the bee balm, and the pizza I’d eaten earlier for dinner did a little kick-ball-change in my stomach.

The plant was barely visible beneath the squirming, shiny brown mass of insects, chomping away like they were at Golden Corral after a week-long fast. “Oh my god,” I said, my voice soft but tinged with terror at the Stephen King novel that had taken up residence in my new flowerbeds. Horrified, I aimed the light elsewhere. There they were, teeming on my sunflower seedlings! And here too, skittering over the purple coneflowers! And glistening in the delphinium buds, appraising me with their cold bug eyes, antennae twitching! And infesting the Joe Pye Weed, eating ragged holes through 85% of the leaves! The next thing I said out loud was this: “Oh my god, I can hear them!” Because I could. They sounded crispy. My entire garden was snapping, crackling, and popping like a cement mixer chock-full of Rice Krispies and milk.

The shredded remains of my bee balm. That white stuff is diatomaceous earth, one of the weapons in my arsenal. Note the untouched Tropical Milkweed at left. Those earwigs are pretty fuckin' selective.

What to do, what to do. Well, dance around all freaked-out saying, “ohmygodohmygodohmygodgrossgrossgrossgrossgrossgross.” That was the first thing I did. My next course of action was to spray the teeming masses with a blast of insecticidal soap, which I just happened to find in the garage. Step three: manually knock visible leaf-chomping earwigs into a bowl of soapy water. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I actually HAND-PICKED many of them. Step four: sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of my plants. Step five: leave earwig traps (shallow containers half-filled with vegetable oil and soy sauce) in strategic locations around the yard. Step six: wash hands until they are raw. Lie in bed paranoid that there are earwigs tunneling through your hair.

Repeat nightly because you spent a lot of money on these plants and are too cheap to replace them. Also because you are a tenacious bastard, and when you go to war, you’re in it to win it.

I’m making a dent in the population, but it’s an extremely unpleasant routine. See, these are the kinds of things they don’t tell you when they say, “Garden organically! It’s neat! It’s safe! Wheeee!” If I didn’t have such an aversion to killing bees and butterflies and contracting a horrible form of cancer, I’d spray my yard with a cloud of pesticide that you could see from space.

Mexican Sunflower, started from seed indoors in March.

One view of one of the new flowerbeds. Brand-spankin' new, folks. Before this, there existed only mega-weeds and a sorry excuse for a lawn.

Another view, same bed. The windowboxes are new, too. That black tarp in the background is covering the bodies I mean TOPSOIL.

One of the many squirrels that frequent our backyard. We also have a tailless squirrel with impaired motor skills and a terrible skin disease. He tips over constantly while nibbling sunflower seeds. The other day I saw him twitching on the sidewalk; I thought he was having a seizure. As I came closer he got up and scampered away. Turned out he was just lying on his side, munching an old bit of crabapple.


  1. You'd be fun to hang out with IRL.

    The way you tell stories has me laughing every single time.

    A yard no bigger than a Chiclet!

    Your flower beds look fantastic. Now will you come and do the same at my house? Pretty please? No earwigs, though. You can leave those at home.

  2. I HATE earwigs! I hate that when I open my window, they're inside the window frame, still alive. Ugh.

    Down here in Brewtown, we were told to expect cicadas, but alas, I think we'll be spared their wrath.

    Your gardens are lovely, but not as lovely as your writing. Ooh, that sounded sappy. Let's just say, you made me laugh once again.

  3. I once, long ago, found an earwig in my Boot. It was alive and I was traumatized.

    I felt the same guilt last year after being stung by wasps, then I blasted the ever loving shit out of them with Raid.

    A girl has to draw the line somewhere.

  4. I have no idea what kind of bug this is but would have loved a picture.

    Soy sauce? Did you then eat the ones who fell into your Asian vat of death?

  5. Debbie (and anyone interested in what an earwig looks like)--get ready to be disgusted:

  6. They are disgusting! Something is eating my hydrangeas. I refuse to look for them at night because even though I read they don't normally crawl into people's ears during the night, what does "normally" mean?

    Your garden is great - I love the window boxes and your porch. I can tell you have knocked yourself out to get it to look so good.

    Is Daisy a digger?

  7. Anonymous12:50 PM

    That earwig looks exactly like someone I once dated. Only better.

  8. Anonymous5:46 PM

    Yuck! I thought we had it bad. LA Toddler likes to open the door to let random flies in. They proceed to divebomb me until I go all crazy on them. She thinks it's funny.

    Good luck.

    Beautiful garden, by the way!

  9. One dead earwig in the basement is enough to make my stomach lurch. I can't even imagine a swarm of them.

    I got a shot of a squirrel absolutely *lounging* on our back fence. They are fun to watch.

  10. You might want to watch the shallow containers of oil and soy sauce. The little creepers might just come along and dip their California rolls in them.

  11. Earwigs?? Eww, eww, eww, EEEWWWWWW. I'm getting the heebie jeebies just thinking about them.

    May you win the war because your garden is lovely.

  12. *full body shiver over here*

  13. You should at least wash your hair with a powerful insecticide - you know, to keep them from crawling around on your head while you sleep.

    I'll spare you the real reason they are called "ear" wigs (please do not infer any reference to the Star Trek II movie).

  14. Your yard is gorgeous. Sorry about the bugs, but my money is on you in that contest :)

  15. Now who ever said that gardening and hilarity are mutually exclusive?

  16. See, now this is why I don't garden. LOL! Your yard looks really nice. REALLY nice. Much nicer than mine.

  17. I hate earwigs. I'm not even sure what they do, but I'm pretty sure they're evil. They LOOK evil. Does that shallow bowl of oil and soy actually work? I'm pretty gullible, so I thought I would ask before I put some in the yard and Hoop and the neighbors think I've lost what's left of my marbles.

  18. Tink: it worked in the beginning, but I think they wised up to me. I just read that molasses & yeast mixed with water works, too. Ah, science experiments...

  19. Anonymous9:12 PM

    Earwigs are really and truly the skeeviest of the bugs. At least you only have them outside and not in your house, crawling ever so slowly up the stairs to your bedroom.

  20. Just when I thought my laughing had subsided enough to take a drink of coffee, I read the part about the tailless squirrel. I'm still coughing up coffee!!!

    This is my first visit to your blog, but I promise it won't be my last!