Our house is moderately infested with squash bugs*. They are the stalking, brown, elongate bugs that move into heated buildings with the first frost. I know they aren’t good; they feed on plant juices and I suppose they could harm my houseplants. But they don’t seem to be doing a lot of damage, so I permit them to stay. They are capable of flying, but generally walk, plodding stoically across the floor where I often almost step on them. It’s amazing the amount of foot force they can withstand. They seem to be all in a prolonged process of dying, and they flail on their backs, or droningly fly and then thwap into the sides of things, or people’s faces. They turn up in the sink, the bathtub and on the couch. Their weird, antennaed heads crest my book while I’m reading in bed. In one macabre incident, I reached for the handle of the bathroom faucet, not seeing the bug on its underside. A surprisingly loud and rich crack sounded, and I looked down to see a bug stomping off with only five legs, a tiny, exoskeletoned drumstick under my finger.
I’m not particularly gentle with them, and they are quite satisfying to flick away. I don’t particularly try to avoid them when vacuuming, and they give up a faint smell of carrots when they’re sucked into the bag. But I don’t strive to remove them either. As I watched one make a lunatic flight into my arm and bounce into a laundry basket, I realized why. Short days, snow, the cold. They don’t keep us inside, but outside, it’s so quiet. Nothing drones and seethes like insects, and without them, it’s a quiet world. The crickets that stowed away in the basement woodpile in the fall are long dead, and only the squash bugs are with us now. I’ll take what I can get of the movement and the noise.
*entomology note: “bug” has a very specific scientific meaning, and refers to a particular kind of insect. Squash bugs and stink bugs are both true bugs. Lady bugs are not. They are beetles. I have, at various times, had squash bugs, stink bugs and lady bugs in my house. But, as my friend Michelle rightly pointed out, most of the bugs in houses around here this time of year are Western Conifer Seed Bugs. But that just doesn’t have the right sound to it, for a blog post. So I cheated a bit.