Sunday, June 24, 2012

giant death bugs

I'm scared of bugs.  All bugs.  I've never touched a worm in my life, I scream when something lands on me, and spiders and I have been fighting a lifelong war.  College roommates of mine may remember that in lieu of squishing these creepy crawlers, I'd trap them under drinking glasses and wait for someone to get home and do it for me.  I've gotten over the annoyance that when I scream or ask someone to remove a bug from my presence, people scoff that I'm "such a girl" or "a baby".  I don't like them.  That's that.
I've gotten lucky in Italy that I've only had one spider encounter in our house, and instead of insects jumping out of the bushes, we have little lizards scampering up the walls (which, I can't lie, have startled me more then once).  However, in the place of other creatures, I've learned of two new threats to my existence and sanity here in Italy that I've never seen before.
One is simply named the "giant line of death caterpillars".  A few months ago, at the start of the spring, a ling line of caterpillars that seemed to link head to tail, started crawling along on the stairs.  It was a long line of what seemed like dozens of little caterpillars linked, and I walked over it, thinking nothing of their harmless American cousins that little kids (not me, obviously) play with.  Manuel, on the way home, hopped over the line and started cursing worriedly in Italian.  "You cannot touch these," he said, seriously, as we hurried home, "you will get a fever and die".  This became a joke for a little with me, as I thought he was mildly exaggerating the danger of a harmless caterpillar, but when I saw a few older Monterosso women in nightgowns lighting the caterpillar line on fire, also cursing worriedly, I got to Google.  Apparently, the "pine processionary caterpillar" is another matter entirely, and a quite dangerous one.  These bugs thrive in pine trees, stripping them dry then linking in these lines to form their next victim.  The dust from the tree can be as dangerous as the hair on the insects, which is a threat to small pets and children, not familiar with their danger.  I covered myself with a giant head to toe shawl climbing the stairs for the rest of the death caterpillar season.
Now that they have gone on their way, the summer has brought another old nemesis of mine, the giant black death bee.  The calabrone is a bee that is shiny and black and about 1-2 inches long.  Imagine a giant bumblebee in Darth Vader's suit.  Manuel told me that his dad was stung by one once and in the hospital for days with, you guessed it, a fever.  Fortunately, the latter part of the story changed, but these bee stings can be lethal to those allergic and, again, kids and pets.  This I needed no warning, as these bees are scary and threatening looking - the english name, Valley Carpenter Bee, does not do it justice.  Giant death bee is much more appropriate.
In addition to this cast of characters, we have regular bees (which make good honey and such gorgeous flowers), snakes (which, oddly, I'm not scared of) and some wild boar to boot.  On the sailboat the other day, we were discussing Liguria with my Aunt and Uncle and our boat skipper, who spoke little English, but enough to say that much of Liguria is the "wild side".  All of these creatures, like them or not, might scare me but beat New York cockroaches and suburban skunks any day.

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