In the News: Driving Me Batty

Bagged saladsThe recent news that someone found a dead bat in a packaged salad mix is pretty horrifying, but I admit a welcome relief from other current news in the world, such as Number 45’s latest temper tantrum tweet or a passenger being violently dragged off a United Airlines flight for no good reason.

Also, I’m not missing news of April the Giraffe. Is she about to give birth? Any day now for two months. I wish her well but also wish the vets at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York had more accurate information.

So, for a while I get to ponder the bat issue. From both the bat’s perspective and imagining myself opening that bag.

That poor bat. How did it go from hanging in a cool, dark cave to hanging out in a lettuce field or factory? Was it exploring or confused when it accidentally got stuck in a head of lettuce or assembly line machinery? Did one of these workers see it and decide to leave it (for any number of reasons):

After interviewing a scientist who wrote a book and a blog about food safety, I usually stay away from pre-packaged salads. They are the most likely to be contaminated, she warned. But there are the occasional times I’ll grab a bag of greens, especially when I’m entertaining. I would NOT be a happy host if I got down my special salad bowl, poured out my lettuce and out plopped a flying rat. Or would it be folded inside, clinging to the cellophane? Actually, it was dead, partially decomposed, and the two people already munching away on the salad had to go for rabies testing. In another recent incident, a woman opened her salad package to find a LIVE scorpion still crawling around inside.

I’ve only had two experiences like this in my life, neither as horrifying. When I was about 11, my mother showed me a box of oatmeal crawling with weevils. It took me YEARS to get over that. I still ate my oatmeal most mornings (my dad was Scottish) but I cringed with every speckled bite. Do you have any idea how many specs of dark color appear in oatmeal?

My second experience involved a rice cake 20 years ago. You know, those faux crackers supposedly good for you made of sawdust and cardboard. In an effort to be virtuous and save time while out running errands, I bought a single, wrapped rice cake in a health food store. I opened it and took a bite. Then I noticed a black what looked like wire sticking out from the piece in my hand. I looked closer. A roach! A whole roach inside the rice cake. Since then, rice cakes have evolved into flavored and seasoned snacks, but there is NO WAY that attempt at sophistication has me fooled. Gag me. I will not eat you if you are the last food on earth. No wait, that’s roaches ….


Phobic Minds Do NOT Want to Know!

How many types of bugs live in your house right this minute? More than you might think! Science weighs in. (Washington Post, January 19, 2016)


Skimming the morning headlines, this one about bugs catches my eye. I don’t want to know the answer. I am bug phobic and the idea of crawling into the attic or under the house to inspect for insects is my worst nightmare.

After living in pest-free homes for 10 years and feeling safe and smug in my new, second floor apartment, I was horrified the other morning to see my cats chasing a roach across the living room carpet. Not the biggest I’ve ever seen, but not the smallest either. I jumped up, almost spilling my coffee, and tried to trap it under a bowl. It eluded me and ran under a big copper pot I used for firewood near the fireplace.

I considered running right out and buying spray, but decided to bide my time. At least, so far anyway, it had not run under my bed. I kept my eyes open the rest of the day, annoyed that my sense of calm had been disturbed.

Surely such a well-maintained building would not have roaches, like many of my older beach apartments. Memories of putting away my husband’s shirts and encountering a HUGE roach waving at me from a hanger. Of waking up in the middle of the night to cat commotion – and a GIGANTIC roach climbing the wall. In that case, I chased the creature down with adrenaline, emptying a whole can of bug spray until it limped under my wicker shelf unit. There it remained since I was too afraid to move the shelf and check. Years later when I moved my son found its desiccated body.

In that apartment I also used to get flying beetles during the summer, at least one a day. They were clunky, bonked themselves into the window and were easy to trap under bowls. Sometimes I was brave enough to slip a piece of cardboard underneath and run outside. My neighbors must have wondered what I was doing, flinging bowls into the air. Other times I lacked courage and the bowl – or bowls – would sit there a long time. One day my mother-in-law came over. “What are all these bowls?” she asked. “There’s a bug under each one,” I told her. She loved to tell that story on me.

Another time my mother was visiting and in flew a beetle. She calmly walked over to the window, curled her hand around the buzzing bug, and carried it out the front door. Clearly I did not inherit my bug phobia from her!

But back to the current invader. The next morning, there it was on the kitchen floor, my cats hovering, nose to nose. Again, it was faster than my bowl and ran under the refrigerator. I scurried straight to the drugstore and the pest control section, armed with memories and internet research. The “bait station” will poison a roach but not before it returns to the nest and poisons the rest.It's war The idea of a “nest” nearby, say inside a bedroom wall, next to my sleeping head, sends me totally to freaks-ville! And if I only kill one roach, what if others come looking on a search and rescue mission, the big guns, the big kahunas? The ones like they have in Texas that FLY or in Madagascar that hiss?

I carefully placed the bait stations under the frig, copper pot, bookshelf, kitchen and bathroom sinks. I talked to the manager of the building. We’ve never had roaches, she assured me. We spray outside regularly. Maybe it came in with something, like paper bags from the grocery store.

Yes, I have been bringing in plants from the nursery, pots from the garage, and more paper bags than usual from the nearby Trader Joe’s. Keep me posted, she said.

After several days, no reappearance. Knowing it may be a free rider, a hitchhiker, rather than a permanent resident has reassured me somewhat. But I will NOT read the article about the latest scientific study on how many other bugs are lurking around. I honestly don’t want to know if it’s more than I think. I don’t want to think about it at all.Ughy buggy