This post is not for bug-a-phobes. (If you are one stop reading right now and go do some yoga to get the word ‘bug’ out of your brain. I’m super sorry for upsetting you.) The real word for extreme and irrational fear of bugs is entomophobia. I actually didn’t know this until today when I looked it up on Wikipedia.
Entomophobia is the broad term for insect phobia, lumping all the bugs into one big, bad, scary category. But there are some specific types of bug-a-phobes that I now know about that have brought up some childhood memories.
Apiphobia is the fear of bees. Some of you may know that I am NOT afraid of bees from my post a year or so ago called “I’m Pretty Sure I Saved the World Today” which was about rescuing a bee from my swimming pool. But I can remember like it was yesterday, the first time I was stung by one. I wasn’t older than five, playing with my little sister in grandma’s backyard in Yakima Washington. My mom, aunt and grandma were all in the backyard with us, cooling off in the hundred degree Yakima weather by splashing in a little wading pool. Holly and I were wearing just our little girl underpants, giggling and dipping in and out of the cool water then running around on the clover filled grass. I can remember how cute my sister was, still a toddler with brown curly hair and coffee bean skin (to my plain straight blonde hair and pale freckle skin). She thought then that I was the funniest person on the planet. The memory of making her belly laugh still makes me smile. Sisters. But then it happened: this painful jolt of what felt like a zap of electricity on my foot. I screamed and then cried in pain and my mom, aunt and grandma all came running to me, crooning softly and examining my foot. I had stepped on a fat bumblebee and I was completely stunned and shocked. Why would the bee DO that to me? I wanted to talk this through. I had QUESTIONS. My aunt, who would have been about fifteen then, more a big sister than an aunt to me, examined my foot more closely and said in a somber voice: “Oh…the stinger is still in your foot. This means the bee will die if you didn’t already kill it from stepping on it.” That made me feel even worse, to have KILLED a pretty bumblebee, even if it HAD hurt me. I felt TERRIBLE. The poor girl was defending herself and it was then that I became aware of my potential impact on nature, a giantess killer at five years old who never went barefoot in the grass again.
Myrmecophobia is the fear of ants. Ant’s have actually always fascinated me though I don’t much like them in my house, because where there is one, there are generally hundreds of others not far behind the daring explorer. My husband was an exterminator for a few years, so ants are pretty much afraid of our house. But I have another unintentional death memory, this time involving ants. When I was six years old I wanted to understand them better. I built an ant farm in a clear container filled with dirt and about twenty carefully captured black ants so I could watch my little friends dig tunnels in their perfect new home where they would be happy and safe forever. Unfortunately, I had not yet learned about the need for air holes and a bit of moisture for all living creatures and woke the next day all excited to see what was going on with my new buddies only to find them all dead in the sweltering sun, where I had left them, not allowed to bring them inside to sleep with me. Ugh. More crying.
The most INTERESTING thing I discovered in my bug research on Wikipedia was that Lepidopterophobia (the fear of moths) is a REAL THING. This makes me feel a little bit less of a freak when I literally shudder over the very idea of a moth in my room. Another kid memory: ten years old, completely and deathly afraid of moths. My dad had to come to my room so many times to “take care of the moth” that he finally told me he would pay me twenty five cents for every moth that I killed all on my own. What he doesn’t know to this day is that I promised my sister half the profits if SHE would kill them for me. I still felt bad about killing the bee and the ants so despite my hatred of moths, I wasn’t going to kill them. I had enough blood on my hands. Plus I didn’t want to touch those filthy things. But my sister was a fearless killer at the young age of seven: she once ATE an ant without even a drop of remorse or shudder of disgust, so she willingly helped me create the pile of gross, dusty, moth corpses: our bounty in a glass jar. My mom, not realizing there were dead moths in the jar, which we innocently kept on the ledge above the sink with a few other empty jars, grabbed it, with the other jars and packed in them macaroni salad for our trip to the lake. My dad was of course served the helping that contained the moths. I’m pretty sure he thought my mom had done it on purpose, some kind of ‘back at you’ thing for whatever my mom thought he had done to her. The look on my gagging dad’s face was just…well a reminder that macaroni salad is GROSS and so are moths. But I still won’t kill them and I have learned to overcome my disgust enough to capture them in my hands when they dare to come into my house (if no one else is there to help me) and set them free outside.
Which brings me to the main reason for starting this post about bugs: the fly that was in my room the other night. There is only one thing more annoying than a fly buzzing around like a bitch when you are trying to sleep and that’s a humming mosquito that you just KNOW is going to suck all your blood out and give you malaria the moment you fall asleep. It was my intention to kill the fly, so I could go to sleep. I made all kinds of attempts while my husband just laughed at my game of tag with the fly and rolled his eyes. I was reminded of the scene from Breaking Bad where Walter White goes ape shit over a single fly in his sterile meth lab. He was super tired too. Finally, all sweaty and humiliated from chasing the fly around I sat down on the bed and said “Fuck it. Flies only live twenty-four hours. Who am I to get in the way of this fly’s last little joy ride before he dies on his own?” The next morning I woke up and sure enough there was the fly, clinging to the curtain next to my side of the bed, clearly dead. He had died in the night, next to me and I’m so very weirdly comforted by the idea that he possibly knew someone was on his side during his last moments.
Now, some of you might think from all of this talk about remorse over killing bugs that I am perhaps a vegetarian or a Buddhist. But I’m pretty sure Buddhists don’t say fuck all the time like I do and vegetarians don’t eat meat, which I also do, though I almost always say a mental thank you before I partake in the yummy goodness of a steak. Plus the other morning when I was sitting in the bathroom all defenseless and you know, eh’hem, pooping, a spider came out of nowhere right toward me at full speed, clearly intending to kill me and I splatted that bitch DEAD without one drop of remorse. Arachnophobia is not a disease, it’s a truth. Those fuckers deserve to die. Thank goodness I had my slippers on.