2007.07.11 Bugs—the good, the bad and the bling

Written by David Green.

Guest column

By Heather Walker Whitehouse

Despite being a vegetarian, my sympathy for living things pretty much ends this side of bugs, particularly nasty bugs that occasionally sneak their way into the house—spiders, silverfish, the occasional earwig—ugh. If anything deters me from squishing one of those disgusting intruders it is my gag reflex alone—not my soft heart. Trust me, I have a shoe and I know how to use it.

Nonetheless, there are certain bugs I will not kill. For instance, the roly poly. You know what I’m talking about, those small, grey beetle things that roll up into a ball when frightened? Yeah, too cute to kill. And then there’s the Daddy Long Legs—a spider, yes, but without all the leg hair. I just try to scoot them out the door whenever possible. And how could we forget the moth, the box elder bug, the ladybug or the bumblebee (the latter too closely resembling a small dog to be swatted indiscriminately).

Though my no-kill list may be longer than most, I suspect almost everyone would agree there is one bug that one should never—not ever—kill. That bug is the sweet, lantern-toting firefly (known affectionately in these parts as the lightning bug).

I remember as a child carefully collecting lightning bugs and placing them in translucent plastic containers with plenty of air holes punched through the tops. How gingerly my siblings and I handled the creatures, mindful not to damage their delicate bodies. How lovingly we furnished them with grass and clover, not only for rest but for food. How enthusiastically we brought them inside for the night, much to our mother’s chagrin.

OK, I admit, I do wax a bit nostalgic on the theme of lightning bugs. And OK, the truth might not be quite as idyllic as I let on. I think we may have gotten those plastic tubs from my grandma’s collection of old liver containers, and the lids we perforated actually sported the words “Brookview Farms” between two iconic cow heads, meaning the “farm” is really a butcher shop. And yeah, apparently lightning bugs don’t eat grass or clover. They actually prefer a fleshy meal of snails, slugs, earthworms—or, in a pinch, fellow lightning bugs. But hey, what’s a little cannibalism between friends?

Besides, childhood means nothing if not blissful naiveté and the ability to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Catching and keeping lightning bugs seems to epitomize both.

Or so I thought.

Imagine my horror when recently I attended a family gathering and witnessed what can only be described as the senseless torture and mutilation of lightning bugs at the hands of (are you sitting down?) little girls!

Apparently the practice of ripping the glowing hind abdomens off the bugs and sticking them onto parts of one’s body as jewelry is the latest craze in “bling” fashion.

“But they’re alive! You’ll kill them!” I cried incredulously to the girls.

“So?” was their only response, as they giggled and ran away.

My initial reaction was to interpret the experience rather cynically as a metaphor for the reckless, materialistic, “it’s all about me” culture of today, but I’ve had second thoughts about that. I suppose in their own way those girls are experiencing youth in much the same way I did—naively and even simply, albeit in a 21st century sort of way.

I remember at their age adorning my hair and bicycle with flowers from the ditch and making bracelets from dandelions, despite the sticky milk of their stems. Those innocent acts of my youth were done in the same spirit as the girls and their jewelry-making—in all cases the materials used were borrowed from nature, free of charge, and seemingly unlimited in supply.

Besides, it is strictly a personal choice that I avoid killing animals. The vast majority of people have no problem following the food chain by enjoying a steak or burger, and they certainly have no qualms about swatting an insect that comes their way. It would be unfair and, yes, even hypocritical of me to pass judgment on the girls’ actions.

After all, if they were weaving tiaras from earwigs or scarves from silverfish, my reaction would be much different—something along the lines of “good riddance.”

  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017