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14 January 2016 @ 05:34 pm
LJ Idol Friends & Rivals: "Creepy Crawlies"  
Creepy Crawlies
idol friends and rivals | week five | 880 words


I can't remember a time when I wasn't afraid of bugs, but I know the phobia was fairly specific when it started. Bugs and spiders were bad, but everything else was okay.

Once, many years ago, I was a kid with curiosity, a yard, and a jar just waiting for a caterpillar of my own.

This was when we were living just outside of Portland, at the house with the 3-4 acre property surrounded by forest on three sides (a forest that was continually trying to reclaim the land). There was a lot of 'nature' outside our doors. Probably 30% of it was trees, blackberry vines, or snails and slugs, but still…

I hadn't originally intended to adopt a science experiment from the yard, but one day I came across a large green caterpillar with interesting spiny red bumps. I'd never seen anything like it, and I wanted to know what it would turn into, so I put it in a jar with fresh leaves and a stick, and punched air holes in the lid. Then I went to our home library to find the book on butterflies and see what that creature might be.

My parents had several handy nature guides in the house, some more local that focused on the Western United States and other, broader guides that often amounted to being, "Birds You Do Not Have." I had given up on the bird books years ago, after easily finding sparrows, starlings, swallows, robins, towhees, crows, Oregon juncos, and blue jays in our area, but being denied red cardinals (an East-of-the-Rockies bird), Baltimore orioles (ditto), scarlet tanagers (ahahahahahaha—ditto), and any vivid red, blue, or green birds in general. Out West, most of our birds are in the black/white/gray/brown spectrum (mostly brown), sometimes with a touch of blue or yellow—and those are the male versions!

As a child, I understandably lacked the fortitude (or maybe the masochistic streak) one would need to be an avid birder in our part of the world.

The butterfly book was similarly broad, but there were more varieties of interesting potential butterflies than birds in the West. The book also showed the various life stages of each species, which was neat.

The closest match to my caterpillar was for a species commonly found in the Southeast, which seemed unlikely (really, really unlikely, according to my parents). So, what was it, then? Maybe the guide wasn't complete enough to include it. I watched the caterpillar chew leaves for a few more days, and the next thing I knew there was nothing but a large chrysalis in the jar, hanging from a leaf.

Chrysalises are pretty ugly. This one was brown, waxy-looking, and vaguely in the shape of a bug.

I checked on it every few days, to see whether anything had emerged. Finally, something came out. It turned out to be exactly what the guidebook had indicated—not a butterfly at all, but a large polyphemus moth. As moths go, these are beautiful, with lots of color and with interesting "eye" markings on their wings. They are also really big, and, well… moths. I got worried that it needed something to eat, so I tried to put some fresh leaves in there and the moth climbed onto my finger.


It was lucky I didn't fling it and the jar across the room and break both of them. Gah—it touched me, with its nasty, furry little legs and that enormous body. So disgusting.

I took the jar outside and put it on the lawn, unscrewed the lid fast, and backed away to make sure the moth couldn't get me again. It climbed to the top of the stick and out, stretching and flapping its wings for a few seconds before flying off into the air.

That type of moth is much more widespread these days than the guide noted back when it was first written (probably decades before I was even born). We still don't have cardinals in my part of the country, but with time and changes in where plants, wood, and products are shipped, insects have expanded their habitats—for better or worse, depending on what they destroy.

I'm sure that encounter with the polyphemus moth kicked up my bug phobia a few notches, along with other experiences over the years (mercifully forgotten, though the damage was done).

As an 11- or 12-year-old, I had no trouble picking up that caterpillar with my bare hands and putting it in a jar. Today, just looking up pictures of it (and its various other larval and insect stages) was a skittery, disturbing experience. Ladybugs are about the only insects I can stand to have touching me, and that took some work. Butterflies—which have nasty legs and 3-D bodies? Forget it. The pretty wings do not fool me. Butterflies are still bugs.

Reptiles don't bother me, and I will pick up and move earthworms without a second thought. But not caterpillars. They are larva, which are practically bugs (or in the case of maggots, worse than bugs).

I don't plan on touching anything in that category ever again.

I may have been the one wielding the jar all those years ago, but in the long run, it was the moth that won.

-- / --

If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fin entries here.

adoptedwriteradoptedwriter on January 15th, 2016 03:07 am (UTC)
My daughter, Fuzzy1, hates butterflies. They freak her. We've never been able to go to a butterfly house.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 15th, 2016 06:24 am (UTC)
I've been inside butterfly houses, but I prefer those with lorakeets because I still get a strong "yick!" vibe from the butterflies!
(no subject) - kickthehobbit on January 16th, 2016 05:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on January 16th, 2016 05:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
John Louis: River Songgrail76 on January 15th, 2016 04:18 am (UTC)
Somehow butterflies are different when they touch you.
Nice vivid memory.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 15th, 2016 06:34 am (UTC)
I don't mind them too much if they're small, and I probably wouldn't have minded them ever if it were not for that encounter with the giant moth. Now I can't look at them up close and not see all of those legs. :O
Maz (or foxxy!): Ross Poldark 01tuesdaeschild on January 15th, 2016 10:41 am (UTC)
That was a rather entertaining little tale. :) I think it's true of most children that they are reasonably fearless because I remember having no problem with worms and such, but just the very idea of picking one up now makes me shudder!!

And I think most people have no fear of butterflies yet find moths sort of...well, creepy. And yours was a big bugger so I'm not surprised it almost flew across the room, jar and all! I'm glad it survived though. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 15th, 2016 06:27 pm (UTC)
It's funny how phobias can build over time, too. I was cautious about heights when I was little, but I didn't have a phobia about them. I suspect I also didn't have the mild vertigo I've had at least since I was a teen. If your head swims and you lose your sense of balance when you're up high (or upside-down), fear of heights is just keeping you from randomly dying. :O

God, moths. Even the little ones creep me out (though spiders can be pretty small, too, and unless they're microscopic the first thing that hits me is SPIDER!!!) This particular moth can get to be as much five inches across, which is larger than some birds. And it is furry. Yick!

I am, however, soothed by that icon of Ross. :)
(no subject) - tuesdaeschild on January 16th, 2016 10:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
Elеnakehlen on January 15th, 2016 03:37 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed reading about your moth encounter. I, too, did not mind caterpillar as much when I was younger than I do now, and I dislike having to let moths and butterflies out of the window if they somehow get inside.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 15th, 2016 08:30 pm (UTC)
It's funny how those issues can get worse as we get older. On the other hand, I've had to deal with getting rid of my own spiders for years now, and while I still hate it... I'll do it.

I had to tell our daughter that part of being a big girl (at 18) was killing her own spiders...
rayasorayaso on January 15th, 2016 06:24 pm (UTC)
I love reading your reminiscences, especially when you were young. They are, as all your entries are, so well written. I loved the phrase "I was a kid with curiosity, a yard, and a jar just waiting for a caterpillar of my own." and the fake book title "Birds You Do Not Have." It really made me laugh.

I don't particularly like bugs, but I don't have any phobias about them, although big hairy spiders are not my friends. My garden enemies are slugs and spiders -- disgusting!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 15th, 2016 08:34 pm (UTC)
I think the caterpillar in a jar is such a rite of child passage, especially if the resulting creature may be a surprise (as with an uncommon caterpillar).

I don't really like snails or slugs, but they don't gross me out. It's always that way-- other people's phobias are mystifying, while your own seem fully justified! I don't understand the reptile phobia thing at all... :O

I think our daughter has all three, plus the crustaceans, which is pretty sad, really.
sarcasmoqueensarcasmoqueen on January 15th, 2016 08:21 pm (UTC)
When i was a kid, I was gross - would touch anything. Now, though - no bug of any sort can come anywhere near me.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 15th, 2016 08:37 pm (UTC)
It's usually not gross when you're little, and it's too bad that doesn't stick with us. But once that aversion forms, it's hard to imagine ever being carefree enough to, say, touch a large beetle. Ugh!
Jennkickthehobbit on January 16th, 2016 05:01 am (UTC)

Well told, but...holy fuck, full-body shudders. I HATE MOTHS.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 16th, 2016 05:30 am (UTC)
It was HORRIBLE. Talk about a panic moment! Gah.

I never even saw that coming, and geez-- it was just huge! That incident alone probably at least doubled the bug phobia, because, you know-- it came after me!
Lenileni_ba on January 16th, 2016 08:48 am (UTC)

Okay. Loved that moment. Now that's honesty!

I needed to take a big breath before even opening the link. I do not do well with blown-up pictures of insects. My nephews insist on showing me their finds at the park - we have a 'don't make Auntie shriek' rule now. *sigh*

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 16th, 2016 09:14 pm (UTC)
The other kids in the family must have wondered what that yell was about, but come on! What a nightmare moment!

Ack to your nephews' discoveries. Bugs are bad enough, but seeing people hold them is even worse.

Johnny Carson (?) used to have the Smithsonian bug lady come on his show once in awhile. She was there one night, letting a huge walking-stick bug crawl around on her head, and the camera pulled back to show Tony Danza practically sitting in Ed McMahon's lap to get as far away as possible from the horror of it all. Who knew I could ever feel sympathy for Tony Danza? Yikes.

Edited at 2016-01-16 09:14 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - leni_ba on January 17th, 2016 03:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
witchwifewitchwife on January 16th, 2016 12:01 pm (UTC)
Why did I happen to read your entry right before bed? hahah. When you wrote about it touching you, I actually got a huge case of heebie-jeebies.. and I'm not even squeamish with that kind of thing! The pictures didn't help.

I'm really impressed that it actually turned into a chrysalis though. I always wondered if that would happen if they were stuck inside jars and not in their natural environments. (When I tried to collect caterpillars as a child, my mum would always let them go after I'd come inside and I'd wonder how they'd manage to escape.)

This was so entertaining to read.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 16th, 2016 10:29 pm (UTC)
Sorry for the timing of reading it!

And I didn't expect the thing to touch me either, at which point I was afraid it wouldn't let go, either. HATE bugs.

I'm sorry you didn't get to keep a caterpillar in a jar! As long as you feed them, they'll go into the chrysalis state and emerge later. The most irrestible part, for me, was not knowing entirely what that caterpillar would turn into. We had a lot of various ones at that house, but most were similar. Not that guy!
blahblahblah, whateverkathrynrose on January 16th, 2016 05:47 pm (UTC)
It's funny the different things that squik different people. :) Fun story, well told. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 16th, 2016 10:31 pm (UTC)
:D I've said it before, other people's phobias just seem silly-- but your own are FULLY JUSTIFIED!

People who have no phobias are lucky! I think that might be my son, which is good, since our daughter picked up mine plus my husband's and added a new one (crustaceans) on top of it. :O
Teo Sayseternal_ot on January 16th, 2016 05:51 pm (UTC)

Yikes! Can very well understand your phobia after such an experience. I can't handle bugs, as for butterflies ...wouldn't mind holding one gently by wings...haven't done that yet though.

Edited at 2016-01-16 05:57 pm (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 16th, 2016 10:35 pm (UTC)
I had some degree of phobia to begin with, but that moth sure amplified it!

I'd be afraid to hold a butterfly by its wings because they're so delicate (they tear easily). The part below the wing... is all bug. :O

Thanks for reading and commenting!
blinkyachiru on January 16th, 2016 08:58 pm (UTC)
I used to think flying bugs would get in my brain and eat it. >_> So I'm with you on the fear.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 16th, 2016 10:36 pm (UTC)
I wish I could say that fear does not seem TOTALLY REASONABLE!

Now I'm flashing back to the Star Trek movie with the boring worms in the helmet. Horrible idea, hitting all of the most primal fears!
tijuanagringotijuanagringo on January 16th, 2016 11:01 pm (UTC)
Well played. You even creeped me out!! Thanks for a good read.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 17th, 2016 12:53 am (UTC)
Thank you!

The awful thing is, it's all true. That was one of the worst surprises of my youth! Amazing what a difference a phobia makes. :O
Murielle: I'm Melting...murielle on January 17th, 2016 07:38 am (UTC)
I have been a bug-a-phobe for most of my life. Used to have to call my mom to come and kill bugs, spiders were the worst and I don't care if they are arachnids they are bugs to me. I learned to kill them on my own, and though I can appreciate there is beauty in all things I am not planning to cuddle one any time soon.

Loved your entry! I can totally relate. Beautifully written!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Yikeshalfshellvenus on January 17th, 2016 07:51 pm (UTC)
It took me so long to be able to kill my own bugs. I still hate it on a visceral level! Kind of literally, really!

I imagine there may be arachnophobes that don't mind bugs, but I think all bug haters also hate spiders. Spiders are everything you don't like about bugs, but moreso. Also, really freaking fast. :(

Thanks for reading, and I'm glad other people can relate to this.

whipchickwhipchick on January 18th, 2016 11:02 am (UTC)
Wow! It's so neat that you can trace the acceleration of the phobia back to this specific moment. Love the last line, too.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 18th, 2016 09:30 pm (UTC)
I think the phobia was not TOO out of control earlier on, but then BAM-- the final insult!

Still freaks me out to this day. :O