Nifty bugs and terrifying insects

We are officially under occupation. Besieged by bugs. Stink bugs, praying mantises and your garden-variety crickets. Flies, bees and ants.

We do have some neat, some uncommon visitors: glowworms visible only in the neighbors’ hay field. They may be related to fireflies but definitely stay grounded. They also twinkle differently than fireflies. They warm up slowly, like old-fashioned light bulbs with their phosphorescent hue, then slowly dim out. (There’s not much info on the web. They also are called railroad worms or glowworm beetles.)

What else have we seen? A month ago Cayden and Had spied a red fuzzy ant sprinting across the walkway. We temporarily trapped him in a pickle jar.

He looked like this:

 

It turns out that “he” was actually a “she” and not an ant, but a wingless wasp. It’s a good thing that the kids didn’t handle her: the species is called “velvet ant” or “cow killer,” because the sting is so painful, it is said to bring down a cow.

But at least the cow killer’s appearance was brief. I can’t say the same for the cicada killers which plagued us last year (featured here) and are abundant again.

After an internet research I’m not sure whether they are cicada killers or European hornets. Apparently the two are frequently confused.

What I do know is that they spend the daylight hours chewing our lilac bush and nights obsessing over our mudroom light. They are undaunted by a closed door, crawling through the dog door and clouding the mudroom, buzzing and bumping into one another. At night, entering the house is a test of nerves. Hunched over and head down, I charge through the mudroom. Usually screaming.

And recently, we detected a burning smell in there. Martin suspects it’s the odor of singed cicada killers, frying on the bulb.

Time to empty that fixture…

We’re not the only ones with problems. At a party I overheard a woman talking about mammoth bees infesting her lilac bush and swarming her porch light. She described her dash to the house verbatim as: running the gauntlet.

I don’t know when we’ll be free of these wasps or hornets, but I’m tempted to make a bumper sticker that reads: I run the gauntlet.

It’ll be like those “OBX” or “26.2” car decals; they won’t mean anything to many people. But those in the know… they’ll know.