(Warning, contains satire)
Last year, we had a pretty bad Japanese beetle infestation at my place. I have grapes, which are apparently like fried chicken with all the trimmings and fresh-squeezed ice cold lemonade, and pie, to these relentless green and orange-metallic eating machines.
And really, in all fairness to our Japanese friends, they should actually be called Jersey Beetles. It was in New Jersey back in 1916 that they first turned up in the United States, before spreading over much of the eastern half to two-thirds of the country. Here’s how they first tried to fight them, Jersey style, according to Rutgers U:
This plan proposed to limit the spread of the beetle by spraying, with arsenate of lead, a half mile-wide band of non-economic foliage around the heavily infested area, leaving patches of unsprayed grassland for egg deposition. These grassland areas were to be saturated with sodium cyanide in water to kill the immature stages. Twelve light trap stations each of 400 candlepower were to be used to attract beetles to pans of kerosene. All food plants of the beetle were to be dusted with powdered arsenate of lead in a suitable carrier. The beetles were also to be hand-picked and killed. Clean cultivation of farm lands was advocated and infested sod land was to be treated with carbon bisulphide. All green sweet corn in the area was to be removed under quarantine regulations.
Cyanide, arsenate of lead and kerosene. Did it work? Fuggedaboutit.
In the beginning, last year, I knocked the rascals off leaves, shooed them away, stepped on a few that fell at my feet. My, aren’t they persistent, I marveled.
But by late summer, I was dousing them in Sevin, cooking them crispy with my grill lighter and crushing them with my bare hands, their oozing orange beetle juice staining my fingers. Die, you bastards, die. I somehow held them off, and claimed a hard-won victory.
But I had no idea what I was in store for this summer.
Take this past Monday for example. Or as I’ll always remember it, the Beetleapocalypsageddon.
I can barely remember what happened. So, please, excuse me if I take a few small liberties with the details.
I came home from work to find the skies blackened by their sinister swarms, buzzing, weaving and bouncing off my vinyl siding, scanning for the last square millimeters of grape leaves not already covered by their fellow demon spawn. My wife and children had been seized by the swarms and were tied up in grape vines. In shock and horror, I stumbled toward the garage.
There, I grabbed my infrared goggles, a Kevlar vest, a fifth of liquid courage, two spray bottles of Sevin and staged a furious counter attack, coating hundreds, maybe thousands, of beetles in a hazy shroud of death-dealing poison. Their carcasses crunched beneath my boots. I advanced far enough to free my dazed family.
But they just kept coming. My Sevin ran out. We retreated into the house. The beetles started eating through the siding.
I returned with a flamethrower, to no avail. Grenades, mines, drones, cruise missiles, nerve gas, nothing worked. I dispatched a legion of my best zombies, but the beetles simply ate them.
So, desperate, with my conventional options exhausted, and though I really, really hated to do it, I detonated an Ortho Bug-B-Gon-4Eva Thermonuclear Insect Control Device Ultra-MAX XL that I bought down at the hardware store, on sale. Probably should have flipped through those directions. Oh well, no time.
Once the atomic firestorm wrapped up, we climbed out of our bunker. Sure enough, the beetles were gone. So were the grapes, the house, the neighborhood. Victory, to be sure, but at what cost?
Perhaps, at some point, in the heat of battle, in the fog of war, I lost a bit of perspective. I admit that. I do.
Just then, my neighbor crawled out of the radioactive rubble and told me that I could have just mixed a healthy dose of Dawn dish soap with water in a sprayer. Kills them pretty well, and safely, she said, surveying the post-apocolyptic landscape that was once her patio. “You really should have tried that,” she said. “You really should have.”
I’ll be darned. Dawn, huh? Well, live and learn, I always say. Next time.