My life seems to be dominated by bugs. (Thankfully with no current infestations, though I could be jinxing myself.) It all started with a book: Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart. I was pulled to it like flies to dung. I’d already read her previous book, Wicked Plants, and it was astounding.
I’m only halfway through, but the descriptions of bed bugs kept me up at night (glancing around the room for possibly critters). One of the most intriguing insects so far is the Asian Giant Hornet. Not only is this creature gigantic (50 mm), it raids bee hives the way Vikings pillaged English towns.
One wasp will reconnoiter the hive, tearing off the heads of bees and bringing them back to its young. Then it smears pheromones and attracts a massive wasp raid. All the bees are destroyed, the larva and honey stolen away.
What really takes this to the next level is the defense that the bees mount. Too small to fight the wasp directly, they team up. The bees know that if they can dispose of the first wasp, the others won’t come. They lure the scout wasp inside the hive. The bees then proceed to flap their wings furiously, raising the temperature to a blistering 116 degrees. This cooks the wasp. The danger is that if the temperature kicks up a few more notches, it kills the bees.
This isn’t the only literary insect encounter. I’m also currently reading Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. The second story, Reeling for the Empire, is both repulsive and alluring at the same time. It centers around Japanese women stuck in a modernizing nation (mid-nineteenth century). To compete with Western silk spinning machines, the Japanese alter their women to transform them into silk worm. They grow fuzzy body hair and rip off their fingernails to pull out the silk that builds in their bellies.
Cap all this off with the fact that my local museum, The San Diego Natural History Museum, has a bug exhibit (Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders) featuring glowing scorpions, millipedes, bird eating tarantulas, and vinegaroons.
It’s enough to make you twitch and glance over your shoulder for bugs. At least I’m not degrading to the status of Upston Pratt from Creep Show. Not familiar? In the story, titled “They’re Creeping You Out”, a cranky tycoon has “bug-proofed” his penthouse (Howard Hughes has nothing on this guy). Suffice it to say, roaches find their way in, both to the apartment and his body.
Enjoy the insect world. They outnumber us 200 million to 1.