When I first moved to Monroe, Louisiana from Oakland, California, I was cautioned about becoming a bug activist. Instead I was advised to think about mosquito repellent, ant poisons, moth balls strategically laid out in garden beds to discourage the appearance of moccasin snakes, and cans of hornet zappers placed on patio tables. Speaking of zappers, I was also introduced to mosquito zappers that issued forth a ffsstttt each time a bug was burned at its stake without entitlement to due process. If my pounding heart was going to reach out to these creatures, the remedy was to press that muscle firmly back into my chest. Of course there are bugs in Oakland but they are content to luxuriate in nature. Bugs in the Bay Area have manners. And although the south Is rumored to be a place where the repetition of “Yes, M’am,” and “No, Sir,” are actively practiced, the bug population unlike their Bay Area counterparts, do not understand polite. They have no awareness that they should not bite, slither, and otherwise terrorize people.
Mosquitoes breed in standing water, which explains why an ex-husband always emptied garden pots of rain water, having grown up in Redwood City and being indoctrinated with a similar anti-mosquito mantra that had come back to bite me in the butt. If mosquitoes, proliferated in bodies of standing water, why not install a motor in the ditch to continually stir up things and disallow the buggers from breeding behind the house? I was advised that it would drive up the electricity bill, and chose instead to drown my sorries in an anti-bug concoction of geranium, rosemary, cinnamon, and lemon grass oils. If my high moral ground was slipping at least it did not show too badly, that is, until I met the tomato hornworm, a giant green caterpillar whose wavy white lines distinguish it from its equally destructive tobacco cousin. The tomato hornworm specializes in devouring whole plants and their beautiful red fruit for breakfast. The worm is gigantic and lurks on the underside of leaves. Next summer we will surround the tomatoes with marigolds and dill plants to discourage them from their search and destroy missions. If that doesn’t work, I may need to take stronger measures. Already I feel a transformation. Wish me luck.