With no joy I bring you news of the lawn-eating beetles, which will add their distinctive unpleasantness to the chunky goulash of calamity we call 2020.
But first, other insect news: We have reports of the dreaded ground bees.
If that’s the technical term. Probably not. What do I know of these things? Nothing.
I’m not even good with the names of trees. Oh, birches and firs I can recognize. Elms I can quickly identify by the big stumps on the boulevard. Beyond that I’m useless, and just call the tree “Buddy” or “Sport” or other names you use when you’ve forgotten the name. Or I make up fake Latin and hope the person with whom I’m conversing is not a professional treeologist.
“Yes, I love the way the leaves of that … woodus branchus turn in the fall. Almost as good as the tallus treecus, wouldn’t you say?”
“You do know I’m an arborist, right? And that you’re speaking nonsense?”
“If I knew the word ‘arborist,’ I wouldn’t have called you a treeologist a few paragraphs above, would I?”
If trees wore name tags, that’d be great. Birds, too.
Bees are easier. There are honeybees, and that’s it. They are different from hornets, which are miserable little sociopaths that would just as soon stab you as look at you. We like bees now because we sense that bees are in trouble, right? We’d be relieved if we saw a headline that said, “Bees Are Fine Now, Scientists Say.”
“A new report on the nation’s bee communities has found that everything is OK, and humans are blameless. The industrious creatures — beloved in children’s books for their sunny disposition despite the terror they incur in the child’s heart and the painful swellings they inflict on dogs that eat them — were just ‘going through a phase,’ possibly because of sunspots or the effect of a comet’s recent passing. ‘It certainly wasn’t because of pesticides or climate change,’ said one expert, ‘so everyone can let go of that vague sense of guilt and pervasive concern.’ ”
Wouldn’t that be nice? Then we could go back to being reasonably afraid of bees, like normal. Because they can sting.
Anyway. I was walking the dog the other day, and saw a bright green cone on the sidewalk, the sort of thing that says “Caution.” This cone had a sign that read: “GROUND BEES.”
I was confused and concerned, to quote a line you could stick on my tombstone. Ground bees? I had an image of flightless yellow jackets bubbling up from the soil, wagging their stinger-laden behinds with irritated fury, swarming over my shoes and jabbing my feet repeatedly.
There was another cone with a sign: “WARNING AGITATED BEES.”
I tend to live my life in a way that does not involve agitating bees in any way, but these sounded like they came pre-agitated.
Then I wondered if, perhaps, the people who lived here were selling bees as a nutritional supplement. “How would you like your bugs? Whole bees or ground bees?”
We’ve been told that in the future, people will eat insects. And that they’re considered a delicacy in (name of country that has no cows). They’re delicious if roasted and covered with spices and cut up into unrecognizable pieces and no one tells you it was a locust until you were done eating. It’s the future!
Well, whatever the signs meant, I moved away at a quick pace and gave it no more thought — until I saw a news story about those lawn beetles.
They’re the latest thing to ruin your lawn. Destructive grubs everywhere are griping about these guys movin’ in on their action. (I saw the Destructive Grubs at First Avenue back in ’82, BTW.) Supposedly, lawn beetles are a peril. We should be on the lookout for half-inch beetles eating the lawn.
I mention all this for two reasons:
1. If you pass through an exquisite manicured neighborhood and every lawn has someone on their hands and knees, keister up in the air, face buried in the grass, they’re probably looking for lawn beetles. Probably.
2. The general reaction to lawn-eating beetles will probably be this: “So? What else have you got?”
This year has toughened us up, put things in perspective. We can take a pandemic. We can take ground bees. We can take anything.
If I read next week that there’s a vicious battle between lawn-eating beetles and ground bees that’s driving panicked residents out of the city just as experts warn of plague moths hatching by the millions, I won’t flee.
I’ll be sitting here under the shade of the treeus shadeus, relaxing with a drink. Hemlock, to be exact, but with a little club soda and a spritz of lime. Ah, refreshing.