The Bugs Who Flew Too Much

This invasion would have driven even Alfred Hitchcock psycho

"Hitchcock," my husband said. "It's like something out of Hitchcock."

I was confused. We'd been discussing Tommy's spelling grades, which, though suspenseful, were hardly terrifying. Then I noticed a clicking sound, growing louder by the minute. My husband was staring out the window.

"At least," he said, "it's not The Birds."

Looking out, I saw a snow squall...which was odd because it was a warm, sunny day in October. It was also odd because the snowflakes were orange. As each "flake" hit our window, it made a distinct click, then started crawling.

It was not a storm, but a swarm. A blizzard of ladybugs was swirling around our house.

At first we thought that our house, which we'd just moved into, must be on their fall migration path. But when we opened the door, the ladybugs flew at us, fast and furious. As we retreated back inside, we realized that they had not been trying to fly south at all.

They had been trying to fly in.

Our friendly local entomologist informed us that the insects were actually multicolored Asian lady beetles, not your usual ladybugs. Each fall these natives of Japan swarm to sun-warmed cliffs and seek out cracks in which to spend the winter. Apparently, our house resembled a sun-warmed Japanese cliff. Apparently, I resembled a sun-warmed Japanese cliff. I might have written a haiku about it if the ladybugs hadn't tasted so bad when they flew into my mouth.

In the two days before the exterminators arrived, the ladybugs discovered every crack and crevice in our house. We hid inside and vacuumed the ceiling every hour. We developed a new appreciation for the ten plagues of the Bible, four of which involved swarms. "Can you imagine the poor Egyptians going through all this without a Shop-Vac?" my husband asked. And, I thought, with flies and frogs? (Personally, I would have let the Israelites go after just one plague.)

We think of ladybugs as little cute-as-a-button beetles. Aphids, their usual prey, know better. They know that ladybugs are really little cute-as-a-button Sherman tanks. With wings. Many of them could resist the suction of even our industrial-strength vacuum cleaner.

Eventually even a Shop-Vac fills up. This presented new difficulties. One was where to empty it, because, of course, the ladybugs were all still alive inside. The other was how to prevent 10-year-old Tommy from opening it and looking in.

"Where," my husband asked, "is an insectivore when you need one?" He disposed of the bugs after dark with the help of a little gasoline. We told the boys, Tommy and his 2-year-old brother, Jamie, that the bugs had a nice funeral pyre.

But the onslaught continued. The next day my husband started talking, rather grimly, about flamethrowers. He even reminisced about 17-year locusts. "At least," he pointed out, "they didn't try to get into the house."

The exterminators arrived and sprayed the outside of our house. "This is nothing," one of them observed. "At another house, we vacuumed up five garbage bags full of them." Outdoors, all we had to do was sweep away the casualties. Indoors, we still had to conduct what the military calls a "mopping up action." Even Jamie helped chase down the holdouts. I know this because I discovered two brightly colored wings hanging out of his mouth.

Hitchcock indeed.

Rebecca Sicree writes from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.

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