Attack of the Killer Drones

The worst part was the sound of their bodies clacking against the tin tuna can, a natural amplifier.

What makes you queasy or freaked out? For some people it can be as little as a dirty diaper in need of changing. For others it is the sight of blood or the smell of vomit. The situation that is most likely to elevate my yucky index is the sight of a massive amount of insects all in one spot at the same time. I have experienced this phenomenon on several different occasions.

I remember once while mowing the lawn when I spotted what appeared to be the quivering body of a bird on the grass. I got a couple of sticks with which to pick it up so I could place the sick avian friend into the nearby woods. When I got real close I suddenly realized that the bird was not sick, it was dead; and, it was still moving. There were so many maggots on its body that they completely reconstructed the shape of the bird with their own wiggling white wormy forms. When I picked the mass up, chop stick style, it literally dripped maggots. That was not a pleasant experience, but it was not the worst.

Then there is the time we were climbing Mount Washington in New Hampshire. We camped out at the shelter half way up the mountain. The shelter campground was quite deluxe because it had outhouses with running water. Unfortunately we were informed by the station attendant that there was no potable water available that day, but we could still use the outhouse toilet. That was OK. I approached the outhouse and just before entering I heard a low frequency buzzing sound. Maybe there was a bee inside. I’d have to be watchful. Then I opened the door. As the door springs were still creaking I was met by a moving black cloud that was bouncing off the outhouse walls and covering every available surface (including the barely visible toilet seat). It was a massive swarm of flies and the slight buzzing was now a manic roar. I bolted (as in ran quickly) and got as far away as possible from that privy. I was a good 20 feet away before I heard the door catch up with me and finally slam closed. That was not a pleasant experience, but it was not the worst.

My wife and I spent most of this past Monday cleaning out the shed. When we moved here 7 months ago we stored many cardboard-boxed items in the shed. It was time to go through the stuff and put it in more secure and weatherproof plastic storage bins. The goal was to get rid of every cardboard box since they are very susceptible to moisture and rodents. Things were going along rather well. We emptied and crushed lots of boxes. The items were placed in nice clean and airtight plastic bins (totes) and the contents of each bin were meticulously penned on each end panel. Finally I got to the back of the shed. Only a few boxes were left. It was when I pulled off one of the last few boxes that I had a Stephen King moment. The top of the box below the one in my hands was completely covered with by a squirming, clacking, jittering mass of swarming carpenter ants. The entire mass was in motion and I COULD HEAR THEM! I immediately dropped my cardboard box of old radio tubes and ran out of the shed as fast as possible, almost running down my wife in the process. I said some rather tasteless words (a lot of them) and made quite a few shameless shrieks. I yelled for my wife to get the Raid from the garage while I stood guard over the glistening black mass. As soon as the bug bomb arrived I began spraying. As I sprayed each layer I would get a tenuous grip on a box and drag it out of the shed. The last box sat atop a wooden play stove that I had built for our girls over 30 years ago.

View of play stovetop ‘tuna can burners’ with resident winged carpenter ants

The top of the stove has four gas burners that are made of tuna fish cans with some heavy wire looped over them. As I removed the final box the sound of the winged carpenter ants was suddenly amplified. It sounded like thousands of tap dancers trapped inside a tiled public lavatory. Actually it was the ants that were nesting inside each tuna fish can. They were stacked abdomen to thorax like black sardines with antennae. These sardines were not standing still. After another session of uncontrolled screaming and jumping (I now felt that ants were falling from the rafters and landing directly inside my shirt, whether it was actually happening or not) my wife appeared from the background with the bug spray and I proceeded to douse those lousy creepy arthropods with a steady stream of poison. It was hours before we finally closed the shed and declared the lower level pest free. There were still a few boxes in the overhead storage area. They could wait until tomorrow. It was time for a shower, clothes change, and a few beers. That was not a pleasant experience, and it was the worst one, so far.

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