What bugs me about Winnipeg*

July 7th, 2009 by Laurel

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.


Not a mosquito! Varied carpet beetle – photo by Ian Langworth. http://www.flickr.com/photos/statico/

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.

10 Responses to “What bugs me about Winnipeg*”

  1. Mr. Nobody says:

    Chillax, -40 is just around the corner – enjoy everything the summer months bring you

  2. Ian says:

    Glad you liked my beetle picture 🙂

  3. cherenkov says:

    You haven’t even seen the mayflies yet! We have an insect for every month!

    Actually, right now is pretty good. Canker worms are pretty much gone, and the skeeters haven’t really hit town yet. My advice is to get outside as much as you can for the next five days. Then look out. whoooooo boy. Look out.

  4. Sigh says:

    You’ll be heading back to the West Coast in a heart beat if you visit Gimli during Fish Fly season.


  5. Laurel says:

    Sounds like I just need to coordinate my outings to match the little pockets of non-bugginess 🙂 That and never, ever, ever, EVER go to Gimli during Fish Fly season!

  6. Sigh says:

    Oh no laurel, you must experience Fishflies in Gimli at least once. All peggers have. Wear some rubber boots.

  7. Matt says:

    You’re more terrified of a cankerworm than you are of a wolf spider?

    If I was living in BC and found one of those things in my house, I’d move as far away/north as possible.

    Ugh, I can’t even stand daddy longlegs.

  8. Laurel says:

    Matt, I couldn’t agree more about the wolf spiders – they can get pretty big, and man, they are *fast*. It’s not that I’m less terrified of them – I’ve just always thought a fear of spiders was more common and logical (because they can bite) than a fear of something like cankerworms and moths (unless, of course, you’re a tree or a wool sweater).

    I’m an equal opportunity arachno-entomophobe – anything small with six or more legs terrifies me. This is why I’m not taking Sigh up on the suggestion to go visit Gimli, at least any time the temperature is above zero 😉

  9. yup, I do the same thing!

    I always check the front door in the evening when I have to come in cuz that’s when all the moths and disgusting bugs decorate it and then I have to figure out how to open the door without them flying into my face or landing onto my head. I can stand there for AWHILE deciding what to do. haha!!

  10. Laura says:

    I feel for you….it sounded like you were describing me in your write up. On more than one occasion, I have made a complete fool of myself in public due to an insect of some kind freaking me right out. My kids get a good laugh every time. A few weeks ago, I discovered a wood tick in my pant leg up near my thigh.. I didn’t realize what it was until I took off my pants and saw it crawling on me!!! I was in my bedroom and luckily my husband was there to grab it and flush it down the toilet…traumatized by that experience I thought it happened a 2nd time the other night. I thought I felt a pinch and when I went to touch the spot on my side I felt the similar type bump under my shirt. I immediately starting screaming and tugging at my shirt to get it off, I think I actually ripped it to get it off while pinching what I thought was another woodtick only to see a piece of popcorn fall onto the floor!!! We all had a good laugh but I usually hyperventilate during my encounters!! Be strong…fall will soon be here and the little critters will be gone!! LOL

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