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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.

dmousey: pic#125576541dmousey on January 18th, 2016 05:49 pm (UTC)
This was entertaining. I'm pretty ok with creepy crawlies but my kids knocked a lot of the fear from me. I set bugs 'free' now when they invade my personal space. Again thanks for penning!Peace~~~D.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 18th, 2016 09:30 pm (UTC)
If you can set the bugs free without worrying that they'll escape the Kleenex or whatever and get on you, you are miles ahead of me!
dee_aar2dee_aar2 on January 18th, 2016 06:16 pm (UTC)
Uggghhhh creepy crawlies ... while I dont have extreme phobias ... their hairy legs are a an extreme put off. I hate coakroaches and medium sized spiders to the extent that I have to get rid of them completely ( if you get what I mean ) . The bigger spiders I show them the way out ...

I havent yet witnessed the transformation of a butterfly. Would love to some day
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 18th, 2016 09:31 pm (UTC)
How can you stand to get close enough to the big spiders to try to urge them outside? What if they charge you or something? Because they can move pretty darn fast.

Which is another reason to hate them, really. Yuck!
Raised by Wolvessinnamongirl on January 18th, 2016 07:33 pm (UTC)
I used to love trapping caterpillars as a kid and for a long time wasn't bothered by nature. For some reason my snake problem came up after seeing 3 dead baby snakes in the under-tree sheltered spot my brother and I played in. I'd stepped on a snake in the field, barefoot, which felt weird but didn't bug me too bad... then these dead baby snakes just freaked me out. I've gotten to the point where I even loathe butterflies after one flew down my shirt at the river and I couldn't get it out; something about it's little appendages scratching my skin. Blech. blech blech. Thanks for this slice of your childhood!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 18th, 2016 09:36 pm (UTC)
something about it's little appendages scratching my skin.
Ack. Yes, once you notice those legs, it's all different-- and so disgusting.

Sorry about the snakes! Unless they're going to poison me, snakes don't bother me, but they sure push a lot of people's buttons. Indiana Jones included, apparently. :D
Raised by Wolvessinnamongirl on January 18th, 2016 11:16 pm (UTC)
I hate things crawling on me, that's all there is to it... Down here in southern Oregon we've got rattle snakes so those sort of freak me out, but they also mostly come out at night so it's not too bad. Otherwise I don't see many snakes and I'm perfectly fine with that!
bleodsweanbleodswean on January 18th, 2016 08:01 pm (UTC)
Heh. I love how you STILL have a bug thing! Your shower spiders make for great entries! Nice work here. You made even me shudder a bit.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 18th, 2016 09:38 pm (UTC)
Would you believe (knocks wood) I have not had another Shower Spider Surprise since the last one? Jan 1 and 2, and then nothing since. Though I'm always on the lookout.

Did you describe some kind of ginormous spider that lives up near you? I've been lucky never to see anything outsized during camping or hiking, but now I'm worried that I just haven't been paying attention. :O
bleodsweanbleodswean on January 18th, 2016 09:41 pm (UTC)
Hahahaha!! Good memory, I did! The cat faced orb spinner -


Do NOT click that link, K! The ones here get bodies nearly the size of....not kidding now...golf balls. We go out at night with flashlights to see their glorious webs. And to give ourselves the shivers.

You're probably clear of the shower spiders for a few more months. I think they are all drowned now!
prog_schlockprog_schlock on January 18th, 2016 11:24 pm (UTC)
Here where I live, we have moths so big sometimes we refer to them as "mothzillas" (warning: moth picture). I don't perceive myself as somebody who is bothered by insects, but when one of those guys lands on the back of your neck or top of your head... Well, even I end up doing a pretty freaky "get off me" dance when that happens!

This is my favorite moth song:

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 24th, 2016 10:51 pm (UTC)
It's kind of too bad that Aimee Mann didn't do much apart from Til Tuesday. She has a fine voice, and this is more interesting than I would have expected from her.

I'm thinking you live in the South, where the heat and humidity and the lack of cold winters just encourage bugs to get freakin' huge. And that thing-- yeah, the polyphemus moth is about that size. No bug should ever be bird-sized! Eww...
prog_schlockprog_schlock on January 25th, 2016 07:24 am (UTC)
While she didn't have hits, Aimee Mann had a series of outstanding solo albums. You can see the whole list here, but I particularly recommend Bachelor #2 (much of which was used as the soundtrack to the film Magnolia). Highly recommended.

Two particularly outstanding songs:

adoptedwriteradoptedwriter on April 18th, 2016 03:27 am (UTC)
Bugs don't bother me unless it's an unexpected landing. My daughter HATES butterflies. We can't go to a butterfly house/ exhibit with her.

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 18th, 2016 06:31 am (UTC)
Their bodies are really big, and if bugs freak you out it's hard not to notice that.

The people from the Smithsonian who go on talk shows and let bugs crawl on them (like those giant walking-stick insects) seem insane to me. I have to turn the channel!