In my early-mid fifties, I noticed the oddest thing; I started to be invisible to bugs.
Imperceptibly at first, then tested and accurate, I realize that somehow I have developed a cloak of visual separation between the entire phylum and myself. Bugs cannot see me coming and for those whom I wish to dispatch with a smack, it is tremendously detrimental. For me, it is both disturbing (WHAT could cause such an anomaly?) and exhilarating! To battle with bugs at such an advantage can really make life easier.
No more sneaking up on that fly in the kitchen— hovering motionless with the swatter in an attempt to lull the bastard into a sense of safety as you load up momentum for the ultimate goodbye-fly. The flies have stopped seeing me, along with the swatter and presumably, my clothing and everything else in direct contact with my person. A sneak attack is no longer required. A good, stout whack with a rolled up newspaper or plastic swatter and, BAM. Goodbye fly.
I mean flies are bad, REALLY bad. They carry disease and fly around and land on our food and get into our glass of wine, necessitating throwing away the WHOLE glass. Grrr. Flies truly suck and it is strange to have inherited such and odd superpower as bug-invisibility but it is mine and I find my stealth to be both useful and amazing.
Flies aren’t the only bugs that can’t see me coming. Cockroaches are a part of life and in my house—which is over 100 years old and has plumbing pretty much as old—those huge, winged, horrible cockroaches that skitter around are ubiquitous. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do not have an infestation. Not like those poor homeowners I have seen on TV shows who follow pest control and animal nuisance technicians around with cameras as they open kitchen cabinets to reveal swarms of disgusting tiny roaches crawling everywhere. (OMG it gives me chills just to think about it and frankly my bug invisibility would not do shit for this type of problem). No, I’m talking about the big roaches that come up through the drain at night. I see about one a week in the bathroom. They are BIG and GROSS.
They are tough too. I have sprayed them with a descaling product; pretty toxic stuff! It is meant to dissolve hard water minerals from bathroom tile, and it does put down a roach—in about five minutes. They try to escape it. They kick their feet and turn over and scream (I’m sure if I had the tiny ears to hear). It’s traumatic to watch, awful as they are, and then I always need to pick them up for disposal somehow. (Look for a long stick; get as far away from actually touching it as you can, just get RID of it.)
Thing is, when the roach can SEE you, game is ON. They will try to hide; they will escape into a crevice, a chest of drawers (where all of your clothes are, so now you both NEED to find them so they don’t pop out of a blouse you are putting on, AND you need to wash all the clothes in the dresser to get the cockroachiness off them).
They don’t want to go down and they will fight. They fly. They run at you. They do those little aggressive pushups. They are pretty brave. But they have to GO.
Being invisible helps. The issue of course is with the light; when I get up in the middle of the night and turn on the light (frankly JUST to be sure I’m not going to encounter one in the DARK) they are confused. They see the light is on, but WHO turned it on? It’s a mystery. They can’t see me; they freeze. Fly? Do push ups? Skitter in the folds of the freshly washed and neatly hung towel to be discovered later by an unfortunate bather? All of the above?
All I need is a good leather or rubber flip-flop and BAM. Goodbye roach. No agony, no kicking and screaming, just mush. At this point, what is left to pick up is made more handleable by the fact that it is no longer really recognizable as a roach. Just close your eyes, use a LARGE wad of paper towels and—pinch— pick it up then throw it away. I’ve GOT to imagine that was easier for the monster to die and it’s fair to say that even monsters deserve a quick death over suffering.
I’m beginning to wonder if this all had something to do with the flytrap I bought for $4.99 at Home Depot. There was a great big bin of them right by the door leading out to the garden center. I was intrigued by the product’s simple design and its claim that it was non-toxic and could eliminate up to 20,000 flies from any area. I don’t have a huge fly problem (like some people do when they have livestock or lots of smelly stuff around); we are good about keeping stinky things in check. But flies are ubiquitous in summer and they are annoying when you are just hoping to sit outside for a while with a beverage. So I bought one.
The instructions are simple: cut a hole in the top of the bag, pull up on the “one way gate” to open the hole for flies to enter (but NEVER exit) and add water. The water mixes with a packet of unholy looking substance that creates a smell that flies LOVE and I would recommend NOT taking a whiff of. Add a rope and hang it up then sit back and observe flymageddon in real time. Seriously they go nuts over the aroma, fly in, and VIOLA! Bye Bye fly. In no time flat the trap is literally FILLED with thousands of flies. They have taken the stinky bait and met their watery fate in your Home Depot plastic-bag fly dungeon of death.
It is possible that exposure to this deathtrap is what caused my bug invisibility. Who knows?
Besides flies, and roaches, I don’t have that much of a beef with insects. Mosquitoes perhaps, being one of the most destructive forces on the planet vis-à-vis human health, are evil creatures and frankly, what kind of omnipotent creator would add such a cruel and pointless creature to our retinue of fine, productive species? But mosquitoes can’t really be smacked, whether they see you or not. They just flit around delivering random itchy bites and worse. The only good time to smack one is when it has already landed on you and is distracted by the act of inserting its tiny little drill into your flesh and removing a gut full of your blood. By then the damage is done and the only satisfaction you might get is in knowing that you’ve interrupted this little asshole’s final meal.
Other insects are frankly fun to watch. Some go about their business whether you are watching them or not. Ants for instance, never look up. When a predator casts a shadow above their work site, they just keep on going. “Yeah, you might get a few of us, but you’ll never get us all! Cost of business buddy!”
Some bugs DO see you. I imagine by virtue of their multiple eyes and need to be acutely visually aware of predators as they themselves predate, spiders will stop and look at a nearby human (I suspect other large, moving objects as well) to assess threat. The spiders who share our living spaces are cooperative roommates and we ought to forgive them their awkward and off-putting appearance. They can’t help it. No don’t get me wrong, a VENOMOUS spider, that is another thing. KILL them immediately, no upside-down glass and piece of cardboard removal to the garden for you. Black Widows, Brown Recluse and any other harmful-to-me-or-to-my-pets species are strictly mashable. But have you ever seen a spider spin a web or catch a meal and wrap it up tight in the blink of an eye? It is fascinatingly beautiful and a sight reserved for famous up-close bug photographers, and those of us who are invisible to bugs.
I would not mind at all if this phenomenon were to spread to other creatures, say lizards and birds. I am especially fond of lizards and they are so shy, it’s hard to catch even a fleeting glimpse. Hold on there little lizard, I’m not going to hurt you…
Birds would be interesting to be able to observe without them fearing you. But they have every right to be afraid of people; we have a bad but well deserved reputation among bird populations for shooting and eating them. It’s no wonder they look at us askance, with their sharp eyes. It’s like they know we can’t be trusted.
I’m also pretty sure that in my mid 50’s, I’m entering a long phase of becoming more and more invisible to my fellow human beings with every passing year. Already I can see—especially in crowds of younger people—it’s obvious that I can be seen right through, like a ghost. At art openings, concerts, lectures, events, I’ll notice someone’s glance, which is quickly terminated upon their realization that whatever there is to see in me, is not worth the effort. Pretty soon I’ll be invisible not only to bugs but to people. It’s funny, that was the superhero power I wished for when I was a kid (most pick flying). But I didn’t really think about it, because it’s a little isolating, like the punishment of exile for something I didn’t do wrong (growing old).
If there is no fighting it, I imagine that what I will do is try to find ways to use this new power for my own advantage. Like the way I always thought I could sneak, invisibly, into conversations to overhear a juicy tidbit with which I could thwart the bad guys. I’ll listen to everything that people say when they don’t think anyone is looking, then BAM.
On second thought, I think that those who deserve to be smacked are beneath my power. I’ll set a trap for them instead. A juicy, irresistible, deadly trap of their own making. Why get my hands dirty if they can do the work for me?