It’s a veritable horror trope. The swarm, that is. We fear being overwhelmed by vast numbers of apparently innocuous insects or arachnids, although they are much smaller than us. It’s their logistical superiority, and perhaps their utter disregard of personal space. Summer at Nashotah House was the time of the earwigs. They came out in such numbers that no room in the house was safe from them. There was a horror element to pulling your toothbrush out of the holder only to find one hanging onto the place you were about to put your fingers. Or opening the refrigerator to find that one had crawled into the butter. Any time you picked something up you might find an earwig under it. They would crawl up the walls and across the ceiling. Other places on campus would be overrun with ladybugs or black flies. It was in the woods, after all.
Most places we’ve lived since then have had their native bug that gets in, often in numbers. Our current nemesis is the box elder bug. Although harmless, it is a true bug in every sense of the word. I’m Buddhist in my desire not to kill and there are too many to catch and take them back outside. Fortunately they’re pretty localized—they like my study, probably because its southern exposure means it gets sunshine even into December. We’ve had some cold days but November has been experiencing global warming and the box elder bugs, clueless, wander all over the place. Most of them are near the end of their life and die after poking around for a few days. Others are quite frisky. Some remind me of horror movies from the fifties.
I have one of those desk set Stonehenge models. I don’t have the space to set it up fully, and the die for the model was obviously done with poorly sculpted clay, so it takes some imagination to think the trilithons resemble those of the actual site. When I noticed a box elder bug crawling over one, however, it took me back to Tarantula and other such films where the menace wasn’t just a little old bug, but a huge one. Our monsters these days have shrunk, however, and fear comes in small packages. Box elder bugs are harmless but annoying. Of course, they’re still out this year because we’ve warmed the place up for them and even in November they, well, swarm.