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Ever imagine a bug is crawling on you? I do. A lot.
April 15, 2014 5:09 AM   Subscribe

A book about human reaction to insects I have trouble in the summer because I am usually suppressing the urge to scream and freak out due to the imaginary bugs that are crawling on me.
posted by Yellow (39 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Springfield Psychiatric Center: "Because there may not be bugs on you" (via)
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:22 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


This is a symptom of OCD, so hie thee to the Springfield Psychiatric Center, pronto.

Oh, sorry, thought I was on AskMe, where a day without a referral to therapy is like a day without sunshine.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:34 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Oh don't worry. You aren't imagining anything.

Your skin really is covered in a seething carpet of arthropods and bacteria.

Your body is also full of billions and billions of similar animals, outnumbering your own cells by orders of magnitude.

You know those discussions of how whales are swimming ecosystems throughout their life and death? With the barnacles and lampreys and thousands of animals, large and small, that depend on the whale?

We are just like that. Think that's you alone aware of your own self? Think you are an individual?

Think again. You are a multitude. An alien multitude.

Glad to help.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:47 AM on April 15 [19 favorites]


I am legion.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:50 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Entomophobia, he writes, is just one of many phobias involving things that crawl and fly, including moths (mottephobia), wasps (spheksophobia) and insects that cause itching (acarophobia).

I am not sure that fear of wasps should be considered a disorder, given that wasps are increadible jerks who will sting you over and over just for the sake of stinging.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:56 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Not helping!
posted by various at 5:57 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


My skin's not crawling with bugs, just morgellons.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:06 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


!!! I was about to ask an AskMe about this actually - summer is coming to Louisiana and I'm already on high alert for the giant roaches. My husband sprayed some stuff so I usually only encounter dead ones inside the house, but I have a huge anxiety response even to those. A couple of weeks ago there was a live one in our bed and I still think about it every night.

I grew up in northern California, which is apparently one of the most bug-free places on earth. Normal bugs don't squick me out too much, but the bugs in the south are huge and abundant and they inevitably end up inside. Sometimes the roaches fly. We'll be having a termite swarm again pretty soon. The cicadas are out there groaning in the trees every night. The crane flies are breeding and their carcasses are everywhere. Wasps nests under every eave, they were sneaking in through a hole in the screen until I finally figured out how they were getting in.

So anyway, I was wondering if my amount of bug anxiety is normal or extreme; I guess I'd say it's extreme. But I'm in the trenches, here. If I lived anywhere more tropical than NOLA I would probably go back on meds.
posted by polly_dactyl at 6:18 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Sometimes the roaches fly

I was traumatized by this as a child. The hideous thing flew RIGHT. AT. ME. This is when I learned that the friendly, welcoming world of singing cows and smiling choo-choo trains depicted in literature was lies, all lies.
posted by thelonius at 6:28 AM on April 15 [7 favorites]


The thing I like about the large roaches is that, when they are inside, it's usually short term. They live to live in trees. When they show up inside your house, they have usually flown in by mistake or came in to get a drink of water or use the phone or something. They generally aren't setting up housekeeping. And, in the sunlight, they are kind of pretty.

On the other hand, meeting one by surprise late at night is. not. pleasant.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:57 AM on April 15 [10 favorites]


Sometimes, you roll out of bed and just pull on the first pair of jeans that are on the floor because you need to go get water and the roommates don't really want to see you naked. So you stumble into the kitchen and you're standing at the sink and all of a sudden you feel the ticklish sensation of something skittering against your bare ass...

I still hate wearing pants.
posted by theweasel at 7:02 AM on April 15


Sometimes, you roll out of bed and just pull on the first pair of jeans that are on the floor because you need to go get water and the roommates don't really want to see you naked. So you stumble into the kitchen and you're standing at the sink and all of a sudden you feel the ticklish sensation of something skittering against your bare ass...

I still hate wearing pants.


I'm gonna go ahead and add that to my list of upsides to living by myself.
posted by pemberkins at 7:05 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


A spider laid an egg up on the ceiling above my bed. I didn't notice it until one fine morning when I awoke to find hundreds of baby spiders, each one no bigger than the point of a pencil, gently descending all around me like so much eight-legged snow. I don't think I've run to the shower faster. Didn't even want to bother with my pajamas, because if I took 'em off the baby spiders in my hair could migrate down to OH HELL NO.

You know that scene in Charlotte's Web where Charlotte's egg hatches and all the baby spiders come out and fly off waving bye-bye to Wilbur the pig? It is not like that at all in real life. No sir. It's T, double-E, double-R, double-R, double-I, double-F, double-Y, double-I-N-G G G. I still reflexively shake my hair out when I think about it.
posted by Spatch at 7:16 AM on April 15 [10 favorites]


It is not like that at all in real life.

You missed your chance to make them your minions. Now the world will never know the fiendish villainy of SpiderSpatch....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:36 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Spatch - I think I need to burn my computer now, after reading that.
posted by schnee at 7:36 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


When they show up inside your house, they have usually flown in by mistake or came in to get a drink of water or use the phone or something.

Or to simply rest. I lived in the merest suggestion of a single-wide in central Florida. One night I woke up with my arm outstretched, palm up, with one of those 2" jobs perched on my curled middle finger. 20 years later I can still feel those little legs wrapped around my finger, those segments pressed against my flesh.

I shared that place with 2 cats. Another night, I woke up to hear one of the cats crunching cat food from their bowl in the kitchen. Then I realized that actually both cats were in bed with me. But I'll save that story for the next possum thread.
posted by Banish Misfortune at 7:39 AM on April 15 [7 favorites]


I used to sleep on a futon on the floor with my partner. One night I woke up to find a roach on my lip! Next day the futon went up on a board on blocks.
posted by sineater at 7:43 AM on April 15


I have entomophobia. It sucks so very very much. It's such a wimpy ass thing to be afraid of too. Trying to explain to people why you don't want to go to the park, or enjoy the sunshine, or why you make mad dashes from your car to your house. Everyone in your life tells you that you are bigger then they are or that they're just as scared of you as you are of them.

Not. Of. It. Helps.

You are just constantly in a state of hyper vigilance when you're outside. People who tell you that there are no bugs out at the cookout are lying.

I still struggle with anxiety about the one time I almost touched a stick bug.

Playing Animal Crossing and hunting bugs in that video game is self inflicted torture.
posted by royalsong at 7:46 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I just have very dry skin and allergies. So when I was a kid I learned not to scratch or worry (too much) about things crawling on me. But what if you were a hypochondriac and had delusional delusional parasitosis - then what?
posted by sneebler at 7:54 AM on April 15


Next day the futon went up on a board on blocks.

That's how you know you've arrived.
posted by thelonius at 8:12 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Lockwood was featured on an episode of Radiolab--Killer Empathy. He talks about the cricket that ate its own insides, and what happened to Dr. LaFage.
posted by Baethan at 8:26 AM on April 15


This meditation will not relax you.
posted by Drastic at 9:18 AM on April 15


Lockwood's own story - of being an entomologist and discovering his own fear of bugs - and theweasel's comment reminds me of this guy with whom I was working on a job in the field. He felt something skittering up his leg and instinctively smashed his hand against it, and this fat blossom of wetness the size of his palm soaked through his trousers. He immediately shucked his pants and we discovered he had smashed a huge scorpion, a scorpion headed straight towards his crotch. It was too much for him - he never went out in the field again and ended up becoming a geophysicist.

Because of a few childhood experiences, I'm kind of afraid of ticks. I'm old enough to know people who had Rocky Mountain Tick Fever, which you never hear about anymore for some reason, and I had a tick bite get infected once. Then a lady I know and admire immensely for her toughness got thrown off her horse right into some kind of tick nest or tick ball - maybe a bunch of ticks had just dropped of a sheep or something - and described it as the most horrifying thing that had ever happened to her.

So when I'm in tick country now I often spend half the night and day afterwards "feeling" ticks all over me...lying in bed feeling all their tiny little legs in my hair and on my tummy and on my legs... and checking obsessively. And doing the tick shake-off dance. Which is weird, because when I actually discover a tick on me - and I always see it, I never really feel it - I calmly and rationally remove it.

Since I'm from Wyoming, people always ask if I'm afraid of grizzlies, rattlers, mountain lions, and wolves, and it's nope, none of them. If I drew a pie chart of animals I'm afraid of, it'd consist mostly of just bison and imaginary ticks.
posted by barchan at 9:19 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


I think people will get over their fear of insects once global warming drastically alters the food chain and we are reduced to hunting bugs to supplement our diet.
posted by Renoroc at 9:27 AM on April 15


Somehow I am perfectly content to let spiders use me as a ladder or a cross-town bus (especially those cute little jumping spiders), but hate Hate HATE the feel of being walked upon by members of the orthoptera order (grasshoppers, crickets, etc.) Go figure.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:32 AM on April 15


Um yes, a fear of wasps that is severe enough to impact one's life should indeed be called a phobia. Regular old fear of being stung is not a phobia. I never understand why people have trouble with this concept.
posted by agregoli at 9:53 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Dallas, TX and before our family was able to afford our own three bedroom home we lived in an apartment complex. Any time you have such a great congregation of people, you're bound to find all manner of insects, vermin, etc.

Don't get me wrong it wasn't a horrible place to live and I am sure people have lived in worse but it did have bugs, specifically roaches. I woke up one night in the middle of the summer in a horrible sweat. We didn't have air conditioning, just a few circulating fans. I woke up in the middle of the night with the sheets at the bottom of the bed completely covered in sweat and I felt something. I reached behind my neck and a roach was nuzzling against my skin. I must have been 10 or 11 and I grabbed it and threw it across the room and then ran to my parent's bed room.

I did not sleep for the rest of the night. And thankfully our family moved out of the apartment into a home a few months later. But I'll never forget that grimy feeling, the sweat, the dark, the gross texture of that roach in my hands as I briefly held it and threw it across the room.

I'm ok with spiders, ants, wasps, flies, etc. But roaches....

*shudders*
posted by Fizz at 9:54 AM on April 15


Amazing. I had a similar experience to Lockwood, though much much earlier in life.

By age 8 whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be I would proudly declare "an entomologist". There had been a demonstration at school from some entomologist and I was utterly fascinated.

Fast-forward a few years (I was 12). Out riding my bike in the woods with my friend Kerry. We stopped near a cozy little copse of trees to enjoy the pb&j sandwiches Kerry's mom had packed for us. It really was quite nice...and then I stepped on a hornet nest.

INEXPLICABLE SHARP JABS AT MY ANKLES
AND UP MY LEGS
WHAT IS THIS PAIN

Kerry and I were hemmed in by an angry cloud of hornets defending their nest. We panicked, dropped our sandwiches, hopped on our bikes and hauled ass back home. In the end I only had a dozen or so stings so it wasn't really that bad, but the whole trauma of it never left my psyche.

Shortly thereafter I abandoned all interest in entomology. It's probably not a coincidence that I ended up in IT, safely ensconced in the secure bowels of modern office complexes, defended by barriers of industrial pesticide and a complete disregard for non-human life within our corridors.

It's another reason why I love living in Utah. Long nasty winters means a signficant part of the year is 100% bug-free. And when spring thaw starts to get serious I make a bee-line (heh*) to the nearest garden center to stock up on wasp traps and spider sprays.

*Oddly, I have no fear of bees at all and am currently starting up my first beekeeping endeavor with my dad.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:57 AM on April 15


I grew up in northern California, which is apparently one of the most bug-free places on earth.

Much of southern California seems to be fairly bug-free too, at least compared to some of the horror stories I've heard from other states. When I was growing up, we'd get ants in the house sometimes, but other than that, I had a bug-free childhood other than the ubiquitous flies, and occasional spider, bee, and rolypoly bug. This has apparently left me entirely psychologically unprepared to deal with any large number of insects or the likes of cockroaches. I guess I can just never leave this state if the rest of the country is infested with hideous insect life.
posted by yasaman at 10:07 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


When I lived along the coast of Southern California (like, two miles away from the beach, if that), I lived in a house that had a really bad cockroach problem. They would crawl up the wall, and onto my hair. When I moved a bit further inland, I never saw another cockroach. Go figure. It's mostly ants, flies, spiders, those bugs with the pincers that hang around in bathrooms, and goddamn possums.

I also had a close encounter with a scorpion on a military base. I sat my hand on a windowsill to close it without realizing there was a scorpion chilling there. I freaked out, but not as intensely as I freaked out a few weeks ago when I noticed there was a small spider crawling on me.
posted by Redfield at 10:59 AM on April 15


People who tell you that there are no bugs out at the cookout are lying.

Totally! I'm not even all that scared by bugs, but they probably annoy me more than the average. Cookouts and picnics are just not my thing and I just don't get them. As soon as you open the food, ants and flies and wasps and shit are all over the place. Half the time the picnic table or patio stones are secretly harboring earwigs that charge out en masse when disturbed. I'll eat inside, thanks.
posted by Hoopo at 11:30 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Kerry and I were hemmed in by an angry cloud of hornets defending their nest

This happened to me once, too. The other time was worse, and it was only one wasp or bee or whatever.

I was going to a friend's house for a barbecue, and because he was all the way on the other side of town in the suburbs I had to take the bus. The closest bus stop to his place was adjacent this big open field, that hadn't been mowed in a little bit and had a lot of weeds and stuff. Right as I'm stepping off the bus, something small smacks me in the eye, pretty hard. I close my eye instinctively and sort of swat my hand in to the corner of my eye and nose, sending my glasses flying off into the brush in the field. As my hand touches the thing, I feel that familiar sensation--it's a fucking bee, and I can feel it injecting venom into my fucking eyelid. I grab the little bastard and pull him off my eye, and squish it in my hand and stomp on it for good measure. I can feel my eye swelling up and I can barely see anything because I launched my glasses in a panic a minute ago. I get on my hands and knees and start feeling around for my glasses. Some people walk by and ask if I'm alright, I tell them I'm just looking for my glasses. They notice the eye and ask "did you get beat up or something?" I must have looked awesome. I find my glasses finally, and realize it's still a 10-minute walk to my friend's house.

So in short, fuck bees.
posted by Hoopo at 11:38 AM on April 15


Formication, it's called, and it's functional. Flick or brush, don't slap.

KC, Orthoptera seem to have little spines on their feet, and they're generally slow. They're prickly, and you can feel their individual intentional movements.
Literally creepy.

Those Salticidae are nothing but cute. They'll kick you right in the nose if you get in their little faces.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:50 AM on April 15


I'm all itchy and such now. One thing, though…THANK GOODNESS SPIDERS DON'T FLY! Yet.
posted by Yellow at 1:05 PM on April 15


I burnt an Asian paper wasp nest with a ethylene burner yesterday. It was most satisfying when the queen maggot popped out burnt to a crisp.
posted by Narrative_Historian at 1:06 PM on April 15


Once when we were surveying on a freshly bulldozed road through the forest, there were a zillion yellowjackets out looking for disturbed insects. They would walk all over you licking the salt and water off your skin. These wild ones were cool because they were confident that you wouldn't swat them, so they'd land hard on your arm and made sure you knew they were there. City wasps won't land on you usually, and flies try to pretend they're not there. I liked how assured they were, except when one tried to go in my ear. Plus I only got stung once.

Salticidae are cool. Once I saw one jump around the curve of a telephone pole to catch a bug - I think she was using a strand of silk to guide her jump.
posted by sneebler at 3:12 PM on April 15


SoCal bugs are pretty innocuous. Though there are lots of black widows.

The thing that really freaks me out is bedbugs. I spend more time than I should worrying about getting them.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 8:59 PM on April 15


Um yes, a fear of wasps that is severe enough to impact one's life should indeed be called a phobia. Regular old fear of being stung is not a phobia. I never understand why people have trouble with this concept.

I was a little confused by the beginning of the article. He goes to look at grasshoppers and is unexpectedly mobbed and covered with them and finds this unpleasant. How is this not a normal reaction? If it was squirrels he would have been OK with it?
posted by bongo_x at 10:41 PM on April 15


I'm ok with spiders, ants, wasps, flies, etc. But roaches....

Roaches are the only thing I have an irrational reaction to. Everything else is cool, as long as it stays out of the bed.

I awoke to find hundreds of baby spiders, each one no bigger than the point of a pencil, gently descending all around me like so much eight-legged snow.

That actually sounds pretty amazing. I would’ve had to make an exception and let them in the bed, how many times do you get to experience that?
posted by bongo_x at 10:45 PM on April 15


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