No matter where you live in this country, chances are that once or twice a year you are bugged with bugs. Whether it is mosquitoes or love bugs, sand gnats or chiggers, mayflies or cicadas, insect swarms are annoying, messy, and often unhealthy. Well, here in the Smoky Mountains, we are at the peak of the autumn color and immersed in some of the best weather of the year. Our nights are brisk and chilly (no frost yet!) and our afternoons are warm sunny. But with the beauty of the leaf season comes North Carolina’s swarms.
No our swarms don’t bite; they don’t splat on your windshield or dissolve the paint on your car; they don’t burrow under your skin leaving tiny red roadmaps of excruciating, torturous itch; they don’t perch in the trees outside your bedroom window to scream and trill all night; no, the North Carolina swarms just…swarm.
I’m talking about Ladybugs; those innocuous, harmless, speckled orange bumps of such deceptive beauty that Germany even designed automobiles in their image. Those same tiny creatures that as a child, I collected in Ball jars and kept as short-lived pets. These are the same Eco-Green benefactors that farmers and gardeners nationwide eagerly seek out to rid their tomatoes of the parasitic aphids. Ladybugs! Yes, horrible Ladybugs!
(Honestly, I just had to stop typing to remove one from inside my T-shirt as it was making its way south to my hinterlands.)
Now I’m sure those of you that have not suffered this annoying mountain phenomenon are scoffing at my dramatic reaction to what you think is the epitome of cuteness. I mean, “Come on! Ladybugs! Really? You’re freaking out over Ladybugs?”
Okay, try to image a glorious afternoon with ideal temperatures and Appalachian colors that people travel thousands of miles to enjoy. Then imagine your serene refuse-in-the-woods literally crawling with HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of miniature Volkswagen Beetles; windows and doors alive with moving polka dots. Outside, the siding, the decks, your soffits and roof are covered with mass congregations of those “adorable” pumpkin colored “buggies.” “Harmless cuties” that are laying siege to your home, waiting for you or some other unsuspecting human animal to leave the safety of your sealed, impervious shelter. They’re biding their time, patiently ready to swoop down and catch a spontaneous, adventurous ride on your clothing, or even make a daredevil dash through that momentary opening of the door and into the climate controlled abode of you “strange bipedal apes.”
No sympathy for me yet? Then visualize what it’s like for me, coming home from grocery shopping only to have the fabric pattern of what I believed was my shirt take flight in my kitchen; imagine the ticklish whisper of one dropping off my color and down my back; or the feather-like wisp of movement on the lobe of my ear. Go ahead; laugh at my convulsive dance of anti-trespass. But when I’ve finished raking my hair and rustling my clothes to rid myself of the remainder of these creepy-crawly aliens, I’m going to pour a glass of wine and lean back in my recliner and attempt to ignore that my living room ceiling is animated in a random, kaleidoscopic, migration of even more stowaway invaders. Yes, I am bugged by Ladybugs and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
BTW: The Internet says that these massive gatherings are actually a part of the insect’s annual pre-winter mating season. All I can say is, this riotous, winged, mass orgy doesn’t seem very romantic let alone ladylike. But who am I to criticize, right? Whatever floats your boat. (Oh yeah, they float, too!)