I have always subscribed to the superstition that to kill a spider in your house kills the luck of the house. I usually catch ’em and shake ’em out the back door. However, I don’t extend that courtesy to most insects – this morning I killed some kind of hoppy bug that had the temerity (and the agility) to somehow get onto a hand towel that was hanging from its ring in the downstairs bathroom. I was reaching for the towel to dry my hands when the beast suddenly leapt from behind the towel onto the toilet tank.
I made some kind of WHAAAAA sound and did an impromptu interpretive dance expressive of shock and horror. Having nothing more lethal at hand, I grabbed a can of hairspray (L’Oreal Texture ColorShine) and sprayed the beastie. Looking somewhat surprised, it slid down the back of the toilet tank. I thought it had dropped through to the floor but when I bent down to look, it hadn’t. I made mewing noises of dismay (“Where’d it go? Where’d it go????”). When I straightened back up, the cricket was sitting on the toilet lid. I made the WHAAAAA sound again and gave it another blast of hairspray. It tumbled backward onto the edge of a plastic bin that contains my bathroom reading material. If it had eyelids it would have been blinking; as it was, the cricket looked as if the light floral scent of the hairspray was not its perfume of choice. I threw open the lid of the toilet and used a bit of tissue to chivvy the creature, hoping it would jump onto the toilet ring and from thence into the toilet and I could flush it into eternity (yeah, right). Instead of being chivvied, the cricket descended deeper into the bin.
I squawked as the creature scrambled along the slippery pages of magazines and reference books (yes, I read reference books on the can). Every time it would leap from one tome to another, I’d snatch out the one it had just vacated. Eventually the cricket was on the bottom of the empty bin, and I was surrounded by a sea consisting of ancient copies of Washingtonian magazine and books about weather. I grabbed the bin and upended it over the toilet; the cricket made its splashdown and I flushed with impunity and not a little triumph. Then I scrubbed the toilet.
Now, I’m not generally the kind of person who gets squeally and ridiculous over bugs (witness the aforementioned spider behavior). However, there’s something about crickets and their kin that give me the crawls. Maybe it’s their prickly legs and feet; maybe it’s the fact that they hop; maybe it’s because they show up boldly in places you’d just as soon stayed private – such as bathrooms and bedrooms. Last month at the beach, I had a 30-minute bout with a cricket that climbed up the mattress and appeared on the pillow just as I was making my bed. Clearly it was some kind of rough customer as it only had one hoppy leg, but for a gimpy cricket it was fast and agile. I slowed it down with Deep Woods Off! but chivvying it didn’t work and I finally had to lie in wait for it after it crawled under the bed. Eventually it came out and I swatted it with a sandal. I think it’s the crunching noise that gets to me most – I would rather gas the thing or catch it in a jar and let it go outside than have to smash it.
But you can’t let them stay inside. They like to chew on paper and clothes and just about everything (apparently they get moisture from chewing on damp towels, which may be why my visitor was on the hand towel). They also like to wedge themselves someplace inaccessible and chirp in the small hours of the night. But it’s their habit of leaping at you which I find most objectionable.
I was able to ID this morning’s visitor as a camel cricket (left). It’s a brown-and-black striped, humpbacked, long-legged, wingless beast also known as a cave cricket. That’s the same kind of cricket that chewed on poor Floyd Collins’ nose after he died in the cave. Just thinking about it makes my skin prickle – in fact, it’s prickling now.
I think I’m going to go buy a bug bomb.