Column: Don't let this column bug you too much.WORTHINGTON — We are reminded often that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You may judge Julia Roberts to be an ugly woman. I think earwigs are the ugliest thing in creation.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — We are reminded often that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You may judge Julia Roberts to be an ugly woman. I think earwigs are the ugliest thing in creation. They are back again — the earwigs. Those long, skinny black bugs are disgusting.
Was it two summers ago that earwigs settled on us like one of the plagues besetting Egypt? Julie Buntjer wrote a notable story introducing us to earwigs. I did not know what they were to that time. Julie assured us earwigs are harmless, but I have never been convinced. Those pincers coming out the rear look wicked.
The Internet says it is believed the name, in Old English, meant ear insect. Old Englishmen thought the creatures sought out human ears to crawl inside. Their game was to follow along the ear canal and lay eggs “under the wig” — in human brains. Scientists say this isn’t so, but I don’t doubt it. I would never sleep in a room where earwigs were on the prowl. They are most active at night. That’s when they chew on petunias.
You wonder what? Do I like mosquitoes? No. I surely do not. But I don’t think mosquitoes are ugly. Mosquitoes actually seem like graceful little creatures. It has often seemed to me that mosquitoes are attracted to ears, but I know they will settle for an arm and a leg.
It has been more than two centuries since Meriwether Lewis and William Clark brushed the edge of our region at the site of Sioux City and Niobrara. August, 1804. English speakers still had not decided how to spell mosquito and Capt. Clark didn’t know. When you read his journals you come on mosquiters, misquitoes, musquetors, misquitors. No matter. He knew one when he saw one.
Clark said the dainty blood suckers attacked the Corps of Discovery in such numbers that it sometimes was not possible for his men to take careful aim with a rifle because of the skeeters swarming about their faces. Sometimes they were not able to eat without taking in a mosquito swarm with every bite.
The Corps explorers mixed a mosquito repellant from stale beef fat and hog lard. This might be worth trying.
Mosquitoes are not quite as numerous across our region in 2012. (Are they?) No matter. Through the passing of two centuries we still have not made big strides in conquering or discouraging them. You may remember when Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich asked the legislature to challenge Minnesota’s university to find a way to rid the state of the ancient mosquito plague. Lawmakers laughed. I never thought it was such a bad idea. We learned how to control dandelions and thistles. It seems we might do the same with mosquitoes.
Half-a-century ago the city of Worthington laid out money each summer to have every neighborhood sprayed for mosquitoes. I don’t know what was in the spray. DDT, I suppose. Maybe Agent Orange. It became possible to walk across Chautauqua Park or the Nobles County fairgrounds on a summer evening and not get a mosquito bite.
I was surprised to read the Twin Cities metro area is organized as a Mosquito Control District, and metro dwellers take this very seriously. The Mosquito Control District has a $17 million budget. They concentrate on (about) 200,000 acres in and around Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington and the suburbs, aiming especially at swampy grounds and wetlands where mosquito larvae are.
One thing we have done well — a thing that hints we could do better with mosquitoes — is bring flies under control.
In the long, long ago, long ago I went from farm to farm in our area selling subscriptions to the Daily Globe. In this time of year, in the heat of July, I would come to farm houses with screen doors black with flies from top to bottom. I remember a woman saying she would like the Daily Globe but was not going to open her fly-covered screen door to talk to me or to sign a subscription card.
We still have flies but we no longer are beset by them. I wish the same were true of mosquitoes. And earwigs.
We should challenge our university.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.