When you move to Winnipeg, people either make a joke about the snow, or they’ll make a joke about the bugs. If they think themselves particularly clever, they’ll make that joke about the snow AND the bugs (“At least the mosquitoes aren’t around in the winter!”). For me, moving to the city during the icy month of February was nothing compared to my trepidation about the summer months, and what they bring: insects.
I’m just now coming to terms with the fact I have a pretty strong insect phobia. What’s weird about it is, generally, the harmless insects — like moths and crane flies — are the ones that freak me out the most. Mosquitoes — what Manitoba is infamous for — cause a general disquiet, but I can usually refrain from swinging my arms around, yelling, “They’re in my hair! Ahhhhh!” I don’t like to be bitten, but mosquitoes annoy me more than they actually scare me.
I realize we haven’t gotten a full hit of Manitoba mosquito-ness yet, but I think I’ve had my share of what the province has to offer in cankerworms. For the past couple weeks, I’ve been walking with my eyes aimed at the trees, trying to spot rouge little worms ready to hitch a free ride; so far I’ve brought at least six into my apartment, only to discover them hours later. If you’ve ever spotting someone calmly walking behind the Ledge who suddenly springs into full-on-panic clothes-brushing, hair-raking mode, that was probably me**.
With the cankerworms, it’s the whole idea of infestation that bothers me. I’m not a homeowner, I’m an apartment-renter with nary a tree to my name, so I’m not sure why cankerworms freak me out so much – I don’t even have any houseplants for them to get into once they’re in my apartment. Granted, I did read up on them when I moved here, and that tends to fuel my fear. I was trying to figure out what was up with all the odd sticky bands on the trees – but when reading up on the worms themselves, I only got as far as the phrase ‘flightless female moth’ before I had to stop.
Since the weather started to turn, the cankerworms have only been second to a minor infestation of carpet beetles (inherited from my apartment’s not-too-tidy previous tenant). I realize these guys aren’t unique to Manitoba, but never having had them before (or at least noticing them – apparently they’re quite common, but tiny); I got pretty freaked out. I stayed with Aaron for almost a week while exterminators sprayed the apartment. Before returning, I had help washing all the clothes and linens in my apartment and stored the unused ones away in giant ziplock bags (as the beetle larvae can get into – and wreck – stored clothing. The catalyst for all of this was my friend, the internet: I’d made the mistake of reading up on carpet beetles online***).
I’m not sure what the root of this phobia is – I’ve had a few negative encounters with insects, but nothing I would consider out of the ordinary. Amazingly, I’ve managed to go 29 years without being stung by a bee; I’ve gotten a couple bites, one from a spider, and another by a bug we used to call a pine beetle when I was a kid, but what was most likely a white-spotted sawyer beetle. We had a decent number of wolf spiders in the basement of my childhood home (more common in coastal BC than here, from what I can tell), but a fear of spiders seems almost normal. In summary, no infestations, no big traumatic incident – it’s weird what your brain decides is worthy of fight or flight.
I’m going to have to cut this post short due to imagined crawling sensation on my arms, but fellow entomophobics – how do you get through the spring and summer months in this city? My current plan involves long stretches hiding out in my air-conditioned, screened-in apartment, but that seems like a waste for such a beautiful time of year. And does anyone out there have a fear of mosquitoes (outside of getting bitten)?
* Alternative title for this post: “AAHHRRGGH!! AAAAHHHRRRGH!!! AAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGHHHH!!!!!!!”
** Sorry you had to witness that.
*** Google is the worst thing to happen to anyone with a phobia and a computer.