- A Flea and a Fly in a Flue
- A flea and a fly in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
Said the fly, "let us flee!"
"Let us fly!" said the flea.
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.
Ogden Nash is a master of wordplay. I love how he uses homonyms (including homophones like flea-flee or flue-flew, and polysemes like fly[bug]-fly[leave quickly]) as well as basic poetic devices like rhyme and alliteration. I often come away from his poems thinking that he is just plain clever.
My point in posting this poem today (apart from its inherent cleverness, and the fact that it's been on my list since I started this project) is to tell you about the hassles I've had with bugs this week. You may recall from other blog posts that I often have obsessive fears when I'm stressed, and that one of those fears is of bugs. Rationally, I know that most bugs can't hurt me, and that the few that can probably won't, and if they do, it's unlikely to do any major or permanent damage. At the same time, I was scarred by some experiences as a child (most notably the grasshopper tapeworm incident, the beetles and grubs in my croutons incident, and the whole range of June bug shells and beetles that the boys threw at me), and bugs really upset me.
This week, I've been mildly stressed by spending two days taking care of Grandma while Elizabeth was especially fussy, waking up at 4 the next morning to take Peter to the airport (he's at Wordcon this week), and generally being all alone with all the responsibility for days and days. We still haven't found anybody willing to sell us health insurance, and I've decided to fire our realtor because other than posting an ad on Craigslist (which I could do myself), I can't see that he's doing anything at all for the commission we'd have to pay him if he sold the house.
I woke up on Thursday, and found that the ants, which I successfully fought off a year ago when we moved in, have invaded again. They made an initial sortie on Sunday, but I killed the ten million that were in the kitchen with Totally Awesome Lemon cleaner, and blocked their entry with a paper towel soaked in the stuff while Peter sprayed Raid on their line outside. I started seeing scouts in the computer room the next day, but never more than a couple at a time, so I couldn't find where they were getting in. Well it seems that Wednesday night, the long range scouts hit the jackpot. They came in through the wall of the computer room, marched all the way across the carpet, down the hall, across the kitchen floor, up the side of the refrigerator, and found the honey jar. It was easy enough to dispose of the ones in the kitchen, but it's harder to kill them and wipe out the line on carpet, so they just kept coming.
While I was trying to figure out what to do, I took a break to play with Elizabeth and noticed a tiny black speck in her hair. I brushed at it, and it jumped off onto my pants. I had seen this black jumping speck a few times before, and I had my suspicions, so I used a baby wipe to capture him and put him in a ziplock bag. There I confirmed my worst fear: he was a flea. Our mobile home park has a problem with stray cats (and pet cats allowed to roam free), and most of them think my garden is the nicest litter box in the area. They don't even bother to bury their droppings -- they just leave them on my nice clean dirt. This smells, and attracts flies (I think that's where the stinkhorn egg came from), and now it seems that they bring fleas too. I have only seen one flea at a time, but I have seen one flea on four or five occasions in the last week or two, and it's hard to imagine that it's all the same tiny bug.
So here I am, all alone (except for the baby, which just makes things worse because I have to take care of her, keep her away from poison, and not leave her at home when I go to the store to buy things), having to deal with one of my worst nightmares -- invasion of biting insects. I wanted to just bomb the place, but I didn't have anywhere to go for the six hours that are mandatory, let alone the twenty four hours that the pediatrician said I should wait before letting Elizabeth crawl on the residue covered carpet. I don't even feel comfortable looking online for answers because the ants are crawling all over the floor of the computer room and I don't want to let them get on me. I'm on high alert all the time because every tiny little itch has to be treated as a possible bug-on-me incident, and dealt with immediately.
Eventually, I decided that my first step would be to do what I should have done WEEKS ago: buy some Cat-away powder (it's made of coyote urine and other predator scent markings so the cats think something big has moved in and they should stay away). At the garden center, I also asked the lady about what I could use in the yard to kill the fleas (not holding out much hope about killing off ants), and she suggested Diatomous Earth.
I had seen pictures of Diatoms in my science textbooks, but I didn't know that they're a great natural pesticide. Evidently, the diatoms are like teeny tiny pieces of glass which scrape through the layer of wax on the bug's shell, and that makes the bug dry up. It's safe enough to eat (in some places they just dump it into grain to keep the bugs out), and it's less dangerous to breathe than road dust or baby powder. Since my flea problem is not overwhelming at this point, I decided to give it a try -- and as a bonus, it might just kill the ants too!
I finally gave in and sprayed raid on the spot where the ants were coming up through the carpet in the computer room, and that seems to have stopped them for the moment. So between a lot of cleaning and a lot of worry, and a little pesticide, and a generous sprinkling of diatomous earth and Cat-away, I have averted catastrophe (for now).