From the yearly archives: "2000"

Dear Daniel,
Perhaps you can help me figure out the answer to the perennial question: What’s That Bug? It’s hard to draw this bug. It was moving so fast and very erratically and it was extremely LOUD buzzing and it swerved towards me as if it were drunk! I drew it actual size–to the best of my knowledge.

Dear Bugged by Buzzing Behemoth,
To the best of my knowledge, you have had an encounter with a female Valley Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa varipuncta). These very large (1 inch) bees are so named because they bore into wood, forming tunnel-like nests for the rearing of young. Telephone poles and fences are often attacked. The Valley Carpenter Bee has earned itself a bad reputation because of its formidable size and habit of “buzzing” people. The green-eyed male is light brown with golden hairs and looks velvety. The female is a shiny black with bronze reflections on the wings. The female bees can sting, but do so very reluctantly, causing only mild pain.

Dear Mr. Bug man,
Recently, I won a scholarship which enabled me to study abroad in the north of Spain during the past summer. Unfortunately, I would give anything if I hadn’t. The dormitory I stayed at had lots of bugs, no cockroaches but mosquitoes, termites, and one girl was bitten by a spider. I saw some that looked like beige or grey fleas in my bed one night, and I also began to feel something crawling, a ticklish sensation all over my body. I couldn’t see anything on me though.
Well they exterminated my room, with a spray called Bloom, and that evening it started again. I refused to sleep in that bed, so they finally gave me a key to another room. A few days later I returned home. I had cleaned everything in my new room before returning and hand washed my clothes (not the best way I now know). About two to three weeks after returning home, it seemed that these mysterious bugs hatched everywhere. They usually begin by crawling up my calves, then proceed to my scalp, they go in my ears and sting me, and even in my nose. I have some bite marks that look kind of like mosquito bites, others look like pin pricks. They are vicious little creatures. I’ve been to the doctor four times, first my primary doctor, then one dermatologist twice, and another once. None of them believe it is scabies. The dermatologist took a stool specimen, some of my blood, and a biopsy of one of the bites. Then he, like the primary doctor, gave me permethrin 5% although he, like the primary dr. couldn’t find anything. The second dr. asked what the first one did and gave me the
same thing. I went to the second dermatologist with my boyfriend who is starting to get the same symptoms. At first he only felt the stinging bites, but now that creepy crawling, tickling sensation too. Also my cats have been shaking their heads, scratching and biting. I took them to the vet. Neither dr. could find anything on them, but the second gave me some Revolution, which has something like ivermectin (probably not spelled right). One dose is supposed to protect them for 30 days. He gave me a three month supply. We have bombed the apartment about 10 times with pyrithium insecticides to no avail. All of our clothing and rugs, including our couch and mattress are wrapped in plastic, because I initially thought I had lice or scabies. Every day we’ve been going to the Laundromat with our bedding and clothing
washing in hot water and drying on hot for one hour. We are so exhausted and near homeless. It is unbearable to be in the apartment.
Many nights I have not slept. The only time I can sleep for a couple of hours, is fully emerged in a tub of water. At one time, I was taking 5 baths a day. Then someone said perhaps my skin was irritated and with the bombing, which does seem to help, I’ve been able to cut it down to one or two, on a bad day maybe three. I’ve done numerous other things too, put olive oil and garlic all over my body with plastic seran wrap on my head. I’ve put Vaseline on my face and in my long hair. Recently, I finally gave in and cut several inches of my hair which was starting to fall out anyway. And once I actually put hot sauce on my legs (big mistake). Obviously, I can’t keep this up, physically, psychologically, emotionally or economically. Why won’t they die!? When I take a really long bath, boiling out my ears with peroxide, and submerging myself, if we’ve recently dropped a bomb, I can get out of the apartment without any on me. I stayed a blissful two days at my boyfriend’s sisters without any sign of the little creatures. We are going to stay with her for about five days and put the cats in a boarding house. An exterminator is going to come and take a look on Thursday. We will try to bomb some more. I can’t take the cats to the sister’s apt. though, because her building doesn’t allow it. My mom lives all the way in TN. And I feel so stuck. I have never been more depressed. This is worse than when I had walking pneumonia about 3 or 4 years ago, especially since you can’t see them.
I have put some sticky things around, given to me by the extermination place. But honestly, I am at my wits end. I have canceled my classes for this semester, which they gladly did since I told them it was their program that this evolved from. My professor however, seemed indignant since she is from the town where we stayed and attended the same university. I’m sorry she took it personally, but I do believe the school failed to take precautions. They hadn’t any screens on the windows, and they did not cover the mattresses in plastic. Also, they let food rot in a fridge in the hall for about 3 out of the 4 weeks we were there. I would sue them if I had the energy, but I just want the whole thing to be over. Thank god for my boyfriend’s job, but the sleepless nights may eventually put him in a compromising situation at work. He has to be on his toes, because he works in a high pressured environment (an investment banking firm) trouble shooting computer problems. He doesn’t make a ton of money though and with all the recent layoffs we are really worried. We live in New York City, and
finding another apartment is soooooooooo difficult. Also, they may not resolve the problem because we may well end up taking them with us. I even went to a catholic church and put some holy water on myself (my mom’s suggestion), and confessed to the priest, although I’m not catholic He informed me he could not give me absolution, but I told him I just really needed to talk to somebody. He was very kind, and I felt better. But I still have the problem. Just when I think we’re winning, it seems a new batch hatches out. I returned from my trip on August 23rd I think it was, and this is November 6th. My patience is running out. We are all probably going to get cancer from so many pesticides, the ones I’ve sprayed, and put on myself. I’ve even boiled
water and mixed it with bleach to mop the hardwood floors. I’ve cleaned everything with Lysol. My cat threw up, although we do mop up
afterward. I hate putting them through this awful crap. They are spoiled and one of my greatest joys. I’ve used Off, including the
candle which made my nose blow black sot. I’m probably poisoning him too. Everything that lives must die. It has to be an insect, since the pesticides do seem to help. What am I doing wrong? I am losing my hope, sanity, and am afraid of ending up homeless in this city. I hope I haven’t sounded too much like the doom patrol, but if you have any clue I would be so grateful. If not, thanks for at least letting me vent. It is somewhat cathartic in itself. Maybe one day I will be able to look back and at least if not laugh heartily, smile nervously while sharing my experience with friends in my nice cozy apartment which I love and have worked so hard to make that way.
Yours truly,
Charley a.k.a. curvysmile

Dear Bug Man:
After reading "The worst bug story ever" I nearly fainted because everything that was written in her story is our story also. If possible, we would like to have contact with her as we have been experiencing this problem for about one year with no relief! We’ve tried everything and the symptoms are identical. Crawling sensations, very small bites, and these things seem to get more vivacious in the early morning hours. This all started with a bird mite infestation. We had pigeon and sparrow nests in the eves of our condo. After the erradication, the mites dropped down into our unit and have been wreaking havoc ever since. We’ve had exterminators over here with no relief. They suggested we tent, however we have yet to convinced our association to take the expense. We are rentersand our neighbors had the problem, but now say they don’t for fear of us suing, (long story) and have been told to keep silent. We have been to doctors and dermotologists. We are not suffering from scabies, and have had all the creams with only minor relief. We are not suffering from delusional parisitosis, because when we leave this pla
ce for a few days they are gone. I am a businessman and my wife is in the movie industry. We take no drugs. Can you please E-MAIL us, and/or give us the writer’s e-mail address so we can contact her to see if she has had any success.
Thank You,
Candy & Ronnie in North Hollywood, Ca.

Dear Candy and Ronnie,
So sorry to hear about your terrible bug saga! Sounds awful! I have sent your letter on to the lady who wrote in about the worst bug incident ever, and, unless she has been completely destroyed by the bugs, I’m sure she’ll get back to you!

Sweet kitty cat
Hi Lisa,
I am glad to say that we finally got rid of the little "buggers". But I am truly very sorry to hear that someone else is going through the same hellacious dilemma with these vicious little creatures. Thanks for the privacy consideration, but I don’t mind if you give these unfortunate folks my email. If my experience could in any way contribute to the early eradication of the mysterious and tortuous bug experience for any one else, I would feel somewhat vindicated. To be quite frank however, we still don’t know for sure what the heck they were and which of the many things we tried finally did the trick in getting rid of the little beasts. And for the first few months afterward, I actually had nightmares that they were back! The good thing is that it did end, eventually. I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed that we don’t turn green in 10 years from toxic pesticide poison, my worst fear about the whole mess. Anyway, now I can actually laugh about it, a little bit, somewhat nervously, while slightly trembling. On a lighter note, I’ve attached a photo of Java. He is our other kitty cat. The photo doesn’t do him justice, but its the only one I had scanned in the puter. It will give you an idea of what he looks like. He and Gato are best buddies and I was most sorry for the misery they went through during the bug crisis. Also, a brief update. George and I were married last December. With the mites that bite and 9-11 (we live in nyc), we decided not to waste any more time. It is nice to hear from you again Lisa. You guys keep up the good work. I really enjoy your site.

Dear Charley,
Thanks so much for the update! I’m glad to hear the good news that the bugs have found another home! I’m a little sorry that their new home appears to be on the West Coast… (see What’s That Bug….)

Dear What’s the Bug?

Even though I’m not a homebody, I am concerned about some bugs invading my home. There are some pesky critters flying in, on and around my hibiscus bush in the front yard. These tiny flying pests have covered the leaves and pink flowers so that the whole bush appears to be spray-painted white. To make matters worse, these insects are now stuck in my window screen because the humid weather compels me to leave my fan on all day and night. As a result, I will have to remove my screens and hose them off, allowing these white, yucky bugs into my home. What are they?


Nechelle Wong,
Highland Park, CA

Dear Nechelle,

Based on your vivid description, I have no doubts that you and your hibiscus are being plagued by whiteflies. These miniscule insects belong to the order Homoptera, which is sometimes grouped together with the order Heteroptera, the true bugs, into an order called Hemiptera, because the insects in the two groups share similar sucking mouthparts and undergo incomplete metamorphosis. Hogue writes in his now legendary book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, “Virtually all homopterans have wax-producing glands in the integument, and many excrete honeydew, a sugary sticky solution that may attract symbiotic associates (especially ants). A great number are plant pests because of their great fecundity and ability to bleed their hosts of life-giving sap. Some also injure plants by transmitting pathogenic organisms, especially viruses.” There are several species of whiteflies found locally, and they are difficult to distinguish from one another. They all belong to the family Aleyrodidae, and are approximately 1/16 inch long and frequently infest ornamental plants. When disturbed, the adults fly from their perches, usually the undersides of leaves, in a flaky cloud. The flightless nymphs so most of the damage, sucking sap from plants in a manner similar to their relatives, the aphids, scale insects and mealybugs. They can be difficult to eradicate, though I rid my fuschias of them several years ago by diligently spraying the leaves with a mild solution of dish soap in water. The slick surface imparted on the water by the soap causes the insects to drown.


Dear Stat,
Without more concrete information regarding size and orientation of the stripes, vertical versus horizontal, it would be difficult to identify your bug. Wood boring beetles are often of the longhorn variety, and though they are not true beetles, the box elder bug (Leptocoris trivittatus) might be your culprit, but they eat leaves, not rotting wood. Rove beetles look like fireflies, but their wings are hidden. They might lurk around rotting wood, searching for soft succulent prey. Can you send a photo?

I am new to growing tomatoes, and am currently having mixed results. I live in the DFW area and planted the young plants about 4 weeks ago (middle of April). They have been growing well, but there is a slight mystery. One of the plants (an heirloom variety) has leaves that are looking scrunched up. Almost as if they have been lightly squashed in hand. Another plant is having trouble keeping its flowers. Flowers show in nice little yellow clumps, and then all of a sudden they are broken off – almost like they are cut or bitten through leaving a kind of stumpy growth. I would love to know what is doing that and what to do about it.
Thanks in advance
Christopher Bird
PS Please don’t publicize the email address, I have been spam free for 3 years! Thanks

Dear Christopher,
Heirloom varieties often have potato type leaves. This is no indication that the plants are unhealthy. Blossoms will not set fruit until the nighttime temperatures are warm. Don’t fret.