I spend a good bit of time outside on my patio. For some reason, now that I’ve retired from my 9-5 job and can sleep in as late as I like, I’ve become an early riser. I’m usually up before 6AM and I like to spend an hour or so on my patio, sipping my morning coffee as I catch up on the overnight news. That takes about a minute and a half before the headline loop replays and becomes old news, which is all too often what passes for news these days. Even the “breaking news” alerts I get on my phone are for “already broke two days ago” news. Which leaves me plenty of time to enjoy my coffee as I watch the flowers, the trees, the birds…and the bugs.
By the time I’m ready for a second cup of coffee, I’m paying less attention to the environment around me and digging into real work…researching a trip for prospective clients, planning our social media posting strategy for the week, and working on any of the several blog articles I usually have in various stages of draft. That’s when the latest menace makes their appearance…swarms of bugs so small I can barely see them.
I don’t usually mind bugs. If I’m being honest…they aren’t my favorite, and I know I’m not theirs, but we’ve learned to live with each other. Even the wasps that dive-bomb my head, or the bumblebees that hover less than an inch from my ear as if daring me to swat at them. I imagine them taunting me in their bug version of a Clint Eastwood voice, “Go ahead…make my day...swat me” knowing if I give into the impulse, I’ll be the worse off for it. Because they’ll sting me, and it will hurt. So I ignore them. I've even learned to appreciate them as I watch them busily feeding on nectar from every open blossom on every flower surrounding my patio, spreading the pollen as they go about their bug business. Because that’s what bugs do. Performing fly-bys around my head are just a distraction for them…something they entertain themselves with after their bug tummies are full.
The bug swarms that showed up about a week ago are different. I haven't seen them in past years. I’m not talking about the invasive species of bugs that have become so troublesome, like the stink bugs or the spotted lantern fly. Those bugs I can see, and even though they are invasive and have no natural predators, I’m happy to fill that void and squish them whenever I see them. These bug swarms are a new menace.
Initially I thought the swarms were the result of the trees I had removed. That brought out a number of bugs I don’t usually have to deal with, but those are bugs I can see, and they don’t try to interfere with my work so I can ignore them. These latest bugs I’m talking about are true pests…so small they don’t even register on the “ID This Bug” app on my phone. They don’t sting and they don’t seem to bite…they just envelop me in their swarm, covering my laptop and my skin, and irritate the hell out of me.
Apparently, my backyard isn’t the only place infested with these pests. I’ve read articles about swarms darkening the skies of cities up and down the East Coast like a biblical plague. Some articles attribute the bugs’ appearance to a species that are turned on by the smoke from the Canadian wildfires…swarming is how they mate. Other articles blame climate change, and still others blame the hot and humid July weather. I don’t know what to blame. I just wish they would go away, or at least leave me alone.
As best as I can tell these bug swarms seem to be some type of aphid. They fly, they jump, they crawl, but mostly they land on something and sit there, most often it is me and my laptop. And even though I can barely see them as individuals, the swarms are impossible to miss. They have almost no exoskeleton…you can crush them practically by looking at them. When I swipe my laptop screen to clear it of the pests it is left with a smear of bug guts, that’s how easy they are to squish. But for every hundred I smear off my computer screen, there are thousands more waiting to take their place. I would think such bounty would be a feast for the birds, but they don’t seem to be doing much feasting. At least not on these bugs. They are probably too small to be worth the effort.
As bothersome as these bug swarms are, I refuse to have a pest service come in and treat my lawn and landscaping with pesticides. It might kill the little buggers, but it would also kill all the beneficial bugs that my landscaping attracts and that would not be a good thing. For now, all I can do is adjust my schedule and seek the refuge of my office inside the house once they make their daily appearance.
I expect one day, hopefully very soon, the bug swarms will disappear just as quickly as they showed up. Until then, I’ll do my best to tolerate them.
And that’s all I have to say about that.