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Gathering

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There’s a party at my house.

It happens every day this time of the year.

Not right now…mornings are too cold…and it will be over long before sunset.

It starts about one o’ clock in the afternoon, when the sun passes over the rooftop, and shines onto the west side of my house.

That’s when they fly in.

The air is filled with them as they come from the woods, to land on, crawl over and squeeze under the warm, white panels of vinyl siding on my house.

Ladybugs.

Or, perhaps, Asian Beetles: the more aggressive, prolific and disliked cousin of the ladybug.

Houseflies come, too, to sunbathe on the walls.

Spiders attend, but I’m afraid they come only for the food.

Mostly, though, it’s ladybugs.

They stay all afternoon.

If I open the door, several come in, either on purpose or just by the accident of being crowded into any new open space.  If I step outside, I instantly have them up my sleeves, in my hair and tightrope walking along the metal frames of my eyeglasses. They wander, then regroup. They explore every crevice. They follow each other in single file or cluster as if in gossipy conversation.

So far this year, they fly back to the woods when the sun goes down.

In other years, they’ve wanted to move inside with me.

By the thousands.

Harmless or no, that is not acceptable. I would scoop them by the cupful out of the light fixtures and find them (or – worse – feel them) between the bed linens. They would drop by the dozens from the ceiling unannounced. They’d  leave brown stains on the windowsills and waxy yellow trails on the glass.

I started by sweeping them up. Every day after work, I’d make the rounds of the windows where – no matter how carefully I sealed around them – there seemed to be a steady migration. I’d fill a dustpan…or two…or three…and toss them outside. They’d pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and be back for the next round.

I moved on to vacuuming them up. I filled five large vacuum bags over the next several weeks, without seeming to have slowed the influx at all. Then I had the idea of re-using the vacuum cleaner bag. I’d dump the contents into my compost bin, and use the bag again.

It was in the emptying of the bag that I realized the captured ladybugs were still alive.

Now, I can swat a fly or trap a mouse without more than a twinge of guilt. I merrily vacuumed up ladybugs day after day without a second thought…until that moment. They emerged from that vacuum cleaner bag as if just released from a train headed for Auschwitz. They staggered and leaned into one another as they got their bearings. Disoriented, and probably hungry and thirsty too, they stumbled around in the daylight, trying to straighten their little polka-dot overcoats. My heart was broken. I was not up for this.

I took a break after that, in my daily ladybug purge. They continued coming in such numbers, though, I couldn’t ignore it. Others that, like me, lived on the wood’s edge and were being inundated with the little beetles were hiring exterminators. They persisted in saying it was an infestation of Asian Beetles, I think because it made them easier to kill. Didn’t we all grow up thinking that ladybugs were good luck?

Finally, I bought a mild household insect killer. I sprayed it on the inside window frames and sills, and on the threshold of each door. If the bugs crawl through it, they die, and I sweep them up and toss them out. As long as they stay outside, they live. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s one I can manage. That’s how I handle the ladybug problem now.

Of course, I’d be happiest if they just contented themselves with their afternoon parties outside and we could set all the killing aside.

Every now and then, a ladybug flies in, missing the poison waiting at floor level.

I smile, thinking that’s good luck…for both of us.