My daughter likes box elder bugs. They are these harmless beetle things that only live for about a week. They have red stripes on their back and they fly, their wings little red capes whirring behind them in flight, kind of like little insectian super heroes. They enjoy warmth, so they hang out in windows and places with heat. They do not bite. They do not sting. The do not emit smelly odors. They do not eat houseplants. They do not do anything whatsoever that harms humans or their dwellings. The biggest complaint about box elder bugs is that they like to come in the house where it is warm, and who can blame them?
I did a google search on box elder bugs for my daughter. She loves the things. They are fairly prolific around here in the fall and spring while it’s still warm but not terribly hot. She fills her pockets with them. I told her I was writing about her and box elder bugs and she said, “Oh, I haven’t played with them in a while, cute little things.” That should give you some idea of Milla’s persuasion towards box elder bugs.
Imagine my surprise then to learn that most sites about box elder bugs deal with how to kill them. They are called pests for wanting to come inside. One site listed some nasty poisons a person can use for box elder elimination, including bifenthrin (possible human carcinogen), cyfluthrin (moderate acute toxicity and suspected endocrine disruptor), deltamethrin (a neurotoxin that attacks the nervous system), lambda cyhalothrin (moderate acute toxicity and suspected endocrine disruptor), permethrin (highly toxic to fish and cats), and tralomethrin (effects include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive salivation, fatigue, and in severe cases, seizures may develop). All of these insecticides are toxic poisons and can harm humans, sometimes even in smaller quantities. Many of them are quite harmful to the animals we share our lives with, as well as those we would rather avoid. What I find so unbelievable is that people would bring toxic chemicals into their homes, spray them, spread them, breathe them, rather than share their space with a harmless insect that does nothing except try to get warm and dies in under a week anyway. Where is the sense in that?
When I was in law school, Milla’s father and I were still together. We wanted to buy our own house. We took the advice of a well-meaning, but misguided friend who assisted us in making this purchase. She owned a wealthy home-building company whose clients consisted mainly of older, usually conservative people with lots of money. We did not take our lifestyle into account whatsoever when we took her advice to build our own house as far as possible from the center of town.
What a mistake. We ended up in this country suburb. As is often the case in these developments, it was named for what it had been: Big Meadow. The meadow was gone and in its place were stepford houses in limited shapes and sizes, with perfectly manicured lawns and neutral paint, as required by the unrelenting neighborhood regulations. We did not last long there. I quickly realized I was better suited to living close to downtown, near young, creative, liberal types. I needed a house to fix up, and since ours was brand new, there wasn’t a lot to do to it. We gave the house our love, built a fence and a dog run, but we simply did not fit in. The neighbors brought us proselytizing literature on a weekly basis. Every visit to the store provided an invitation to our auto windshield to attend a local church play. We were one of only a handful of families who recycled. Basically, we were major sore thumbs.
Our immediate next door neighbors were especially different from us. The main thing about them that I remember is that on periodic afternoons the woman of the house had her teenage sons out in the yard and driveway with square-nosed shovels to search for garter snakes to kill. She did not want them anywhere near her home. Since her house backed up to the edge of what had been the big meadow the neighborhood obliterated, garter snakes were frequently in evidence. After her sons killed a sufficient number of garter snakes, she would spread poison all over her yard to kill insects. She would kill the harmless garter snakes that would have eaten the insects and chose instead to cover her yard in toxic chemicals. Insane.
I am constantly amazed at the irrationality of human beings. I am certain that irrational behaviors are likely part of my makeup simply because I am human. I would like to think though, that most of my ridiculousness isn’t destroying the planet. I hope not. I can hear it now how someone just doesn’t like the legs on bugs. Spiders give them the creeps. They don’t like the “idea” of something coming into their bed. So they’ll spread toxic chemicals all over their house and lawn to rid themselves of “pests.” At least the chemicals aren’t creepy and crawly.
I find it ironic that acts of compassion and kindness are considered humane, as if placing the name of homo sapiens on such behavior distinguishes us from other creatures on earth. Yet the only thing that really distinguishes humanity is our ability to systematically annihillate ourselves and our planet because of silly things like insect legs or the possibility that another creature might come into our beds. I just don’t get it. Perhaps a better definition for humane would be anything except compassion and kindness since our race seems hell bent on destroying this place we call home. At least we can say that while we were on our way out we didn’t have to share our lives with the box elder bugs.