Mel Birnkrant's
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All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
          In the autumn of 2010, a not so small and ugly BUG became my friend.   He was kinda creepy, but also kinda cute.  He hung around my desk throughout the winter and into early spring. I have had occasional insect friends before, lady bugs, mainly, always enjoyable to watch; they were never any trouble, beyond the vigilance required to make sure I didn’t accidently injure them.

This guy was something different, a cross between I tiny rhinoceros and a dead leaf; some kind of beetle.  He spent most of his time cautiously crawling on the small army of Outer Space Men that, along with a barrage of “Bad Taste Bears”, populate the desk beside me.  Either he was imperviously unaware of me, or if he knew that I was there, he didn't seem to care, for he was brave, trusting and unafraid.  I grew quite fond of him, to the point that, I even took his picture, while he was tirelessly tracing every inch of the Outer Space Men, which is how he usually passed the day.  I speculated that he was either a connoisseur of action figures, or, himself, a tiny alien, imploring the OSM to take him to their leader.
At other times, he'd hang around the sink.  Once, I inadvertently washed him down the drain.  I had turned the water on, without looking, and his little body caught my eye, a split second, too late, as it disappeared into the hole.  Minutes later, I spotted the tenacious little bastard climbing out again!  In the future, I always looked twice, before I turned the faucet on.  Often, in the morning, I’d find him in the sink again, and had to issue him out of the way, riding on any handy object or scrap of paper, onto which he’d climb willingly, before I ran the water.

Then one morning, I found him dead, lying on the narrow ledge before the screen of my computer; an area he‘d traversed incessantly throughout his short-lived lifetime.  This took place, about this time, a year ago.  Easter was on the way, and the next day, there he was again!  Either he had risen from his grave, the toilet bowl, or this was another one, exactly the same.

And so it began again. This new bug did the very same things, crawling unafraid, all over the Outer Space Men, as well as on the keyboard of my computer, and, occasionally, on me.  And like the other, only much sooner, I found him dead, early one morning; only to be replaced by another, the very next day.  And so, this strange pattern continued, as, one after another, the bugs would come and stay, each one for a shorter time, then die and be replaced.  Once there were two at the same time, each on either side of my computer.  Like an idiot, or a matchmaker, I transported the one to meet the other.  It was a party!

In the days that followed, I began to come across the carcasses of others, scattered here and there around the floor.  Hummmm, it was time to look these guys up on the computer.  That’s how I discovered that these small creatures from Africa had recently invaded and overrun parts of the USA.  And they were known by the inglorious name of, “Stink Bugs”.  Oy! Come to think of it, there had been a strange odor around my desk, of late, and all the while, I thought that it was me.

Apparently, if one squashes a Stink Bug, a really horrible odor is released.  Thank God, I had never done that. The articles also state that these little monsters have no natural enemies, and therefore, are increasingly taking over the country, ruining crops, along the way.  Furthermore, they are impossible to stop.  Insecticides are ineffectual, and smacking them is a really bad idea, tantamount to kicking a skunk!

Meanwhile, my occasional Stink Bug parties were reoccurring more frequently, this time, without any help from me.  And the intimate gatherings of two or three were fast becoming Flash Mobs. I wondered if they were the evil spawn of the two I had introduced to each other, previously.  Needless to say, my attitude to my little buddies changed, rather abruptly… No More Mr. Nice Guy, me!

The situation really “Sucked”, and was quickly getting out of hand. Thus, I intuitively found my weapon of choice, the handy vacuum cleaner.  Effective and remotely humane; it didn’t exactly kill them, but just restricted them to spending their remaining days, along with their friends and family, living in the lap of ELECTRO-LUXury, in the confines of a vacuum bag.

In the weeks that followed, I sucked up as many as 20 to 30 bugs a day.  Then, they miraculously went away.  Throughout this winter they laid low, and I saw one, only now and then.  Now, spring has sprung, and they’ve come back again, and, this time, they brought their friends!

Now, when I use the computer at night, the little stinkers congregate, close by, as they’re attracted to the light.  The Vacuum cleaner, like a faithful puppy, lies here by my side.  My friendly canine canister! I reach down, every now and then, to grab the hose and suck up bugs, whenever they crawl by.

The pesky critters also gather on the ceiling, in an attempt to “Occupy”. Therefore, several times a day, I put extension tubes on the vacuum hose and walk around, here, like Darth Vader, wielding my chrome plated light saber, to harvest as many Stink Bugs as my trusty vacuum cleaner can inhale at one time.  Last night, like the Brave Little Taylor, I sucked up "seven in one blow".  So far, tonight, I’ve captured nine.

And so it is, these curious little buggers, who started out as my good friends, have managed to “BUG” me, in the end.  And, more or less, because of them, I’ve become a Collector again.  Collecting Stink Bugs is my new obsession.  And the Vacuum Bag is overflowing, as I add more Bugs to my Collection.