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Florida: A Haven for Bug Lovers

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Some say I have sinned. Certain fundamental friends of mine have caught me dancing. I think, since I was dancing by myself, the sin is less severe.

Actually, what I was doing is a familiar ritual to us Floridians, especially us natives—bug dodging (an adult version of the child’s game of dodge ball). We have to deal on a regular basis with a rather hardy breed of varmint in this climate. Roaches, mosquitoes, silverfish, moths, scorpions, horseflies, centipedes, millipedes, as well as spiders and ants of all varieties seem to have evolved into some type of “superbug” that can withstand any human assault with any man-made weapon only to rear its ugly head again and again. My particular favorite is the palmetto bug. This nasty resembles a flying roach, and makes a persistent buzzing noise while strafing your head with repeated attempts to use your skull as a landing strip. If there is one in the house and you turn on the light, this is like offering a Hershey Bliss to a chocolate addict. The only way to combat this assault is to keep moving while waving your arms in the air and constantly ducking and moving your head side-to-side (a “twisted” version of the frug, popular in the late 1960s).

Most bug assaults are not aerial but by land. Spiders, though, are another exception as they can be found rappelling from the ceiling or any other height to bounce menacingly from an intricate web in a tantalizing tease—will it touch me or will it not? Getting fingers or hair enmeshed in the sticky web is enough to make one leery of challenging this particular critter. I was inspecting the shower before entering the other day (a defense mechanism one does automatically in Central Florida), and spotted a spider of intriguing pattern and color. Having no insect repellant on hand (a definite no-no), I sought out the available weapons in the bathroom and began my attack with hair spray. This succeeded in immobilizing it a little bit, but with four legs still working, he was mightily trying to invade my personal space. I then bombarded him with 409 spray, Tilex grout cleaner, polishing him off with a few drops of pine oil followed by strategic dribbles of alcohol. Talk about chemical warfare!

Back to my “sin” of dancing, the second-most popular “series of rhythmic and patterned bodily movements” is the “roach step and stomp.” This dance is a cross between the heavy-footed tapping of Riverdance and the smooth shuffling two-step of Gregory Hines. It goes shuffle-slide-smash/stomp-smash/stomp, shuffle-slide-smash/stomp-smash/stomp. That is, with shoes on! If attempting barefooted, it is mostly slide-scramble-slip-dip and jump.

My favorite war story, however, involves my husband, naturally. We had an unwanted guest in the living room in the form of a wasp, and he—my gallant hero—came to my rescue, having heard my cries of fear and distress. Armed with the Local and State Section of the newspaper, he rolled the paper into a club, and swung and swished mightily as the wasp flitted away (I think I saw its shoulders shaking in laughter). Pete’s determination and single-mindedness finally led me to flee from the room into the safety of our bedroom, where I turned on the radio loudly and dissolved in tearful guffaws. The force of the breeze produced by the swishing newspaper had every loose piece of paper on every surface billowing around the living room, further amusing the wasp.

I now keep insect repellant in every room of the house … with several cans of hair spray on hand for good measure.


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