What’s bugging you?

Which is worse–a three-day power outage or seeking refuge in the Hereford Zone where bugs are a fact of life?  Temperatures in the 90’s led daughter Julie to choose the Hereford Zone.  She walked in the door to a warning from Dad.

“There’s a big spider on the kitchen counter, but don’t worry, it’s dead.”

Ok,  I know.  Normal people dispose of dead spiders.  But this thing was so big it was worthy of a photo and we had not finished staging the photo shoot when Julie arrived.

Before her arrival, while we were prepping the family room for a carpet shampoo, a humongous wolf spider scooted across the wall.  It was too big to even risk squashing, but the handy-dandy bug zapper took care of it in a flash.  (Literally.  It’s an electrified tennis racquet.)  Zapping the spider had the added advantage of not destroying the spider, so we were able to get a good look at it.  John carefully unfolded the legs to display the spider to its full advantage.  It was horrific.  It was even bigger than the wolf spider that gave Shelley a Psycho-like shower scene one time.  We had to take a picture of it.  Ah, but something must give some perspective to the size of this thing.  We found the perfect item when we cleaned out behind the tv–a broken Monster Classics DVD.  Alas, we will never again watch Gammera the Invincible, Night of the Blood Beast, or Attack of the Giant Leeches. (Can’t say that I ever did watch them.   If I did, they were that memorable.)

After the photo shoot, John carefully stored the spider in his desk drawer.  Hey, he had to show Harper when Harper got  back from vacation.  Julie worried that Shelley might open the drawer and freak out, so I showed Shelley the photo and watched her freak out from that instead.  Harper, upon his return, examined the spider under the microscope on the kitchen table.  Shelley’s reaction: “Will you put that thing away??????

Three days after discovering the wolf spider, right after Julie’s departure, I found something even better while weeding the black-eyed susans.  On the fence, a fuzzy black creepy-looking spider was being menaced by a red-bellied six-legged spidery bug with long antennae.  The antennae even had patches of glowing red on them.  And the bug’s aggressive stance toward the spider was positively ninja-like.

A bit of bug research later, I discover that it was a nymph wheel bug.  The adults are brown-grey with what looks like a circular saw blade sticking out of their back.  It is related to the stink bug and the adults do kind of look like big stink bugs, except for that saw blade sticking out of their back.  The nymphs are scary red.  They are a True Bug  (as opposed to insect) and  belong to a group called Assassin Bugs.  They sting their prey to paralyze it and then suck all the juices out of it.  No wonder that black spider was afraid.

The wheel bug venom is not poisonous to humans but really hurts (ten times worse than a wasp) and takes a long time to heal (up to six months).  Treatment is to quickly soak the affected area in ammonia water and epsom salts.  In spite of its nasty sting, humans are only stung by accident and, since it is a beneficial bug, it should not be killed.  They like to hang out on daisy-like flowers (hence, the black-eyed susan garden) and wherever there are a lot of caterpillars.

I am glad I discovered the bright red nymph first.  And I’m glad I know to watch out for them while I weed.  Julie, I’m sure, is glad to be home in the city with asphalt and air conditioning.

There were actually 2 wheel bugs. This one appears more red in the picture than the other one.