Bug Tales: Little Pest Critters & I Will NEVER Get Along—Ever.

My God, I can’t stand bugs—never could. I mean, I grew up in Long Island, in a house with a grand, green, immaculately-maintained backyard, and I think I might have gone out there all of, like, three times. By force. There were spiders and mosquitoes and bees and stuff out there. Denene didn’t play that. So I stayed inside with my dolls and my books and far, far away from the creepy crawlies. Those unfortunate buggers that actually made it to the inside? Well, all it took was a full-on, high-pitched “Daddy!” and my father would regulate. We were a team, Daddy and I. I’d scream. He’d kill for me.

I’m not sure how I made it through my single and independent years without my personal bug slayer. It’s all a frenetic, heart-stopping blur. Centipede. Tarantula. Snake. Gnat. Didn’t matter. I saw. I screamed. I ran. I do know that my Nick took up the Official Bug Killer mantle when we moved in together. For this, I was grateful. And for years, we lived in a virtually bug-free house up North, where critters know their place: outside.

This, apparently, is not the modus operandi of bugs down here in the South. Like, at all. I swear when we purchased our house here in Georgia, the first thing the real estate agent said to us after “congratulations” was “You’re going to need to hire a pest control company. Trust me on this.” She kind of took this quick, crazy look at the woods surrounding our house and then scurried off to hr car without another word. And I was all, “wait, what?”

I promise you this: her words were echoing in my head, that crazy look haunting my brain the first time I saw a black snake crawling down a tree in our backyard, right in front of the huge picture window in our kitchen. I could hear her warning, too, when I found the army of ants marching like an Army brigade from the back deck, through the back door to my dog’s food and water bowl… in the kitchen. Same thing for when those stick bugs made themselves right at home on our garage doors, and the squirrels turned our attic into their own, personal maternity ward.

But Sweet Baby Jesus, you have to understand how fast I heeded her advice and found a good pest control company that one afternoon when Lila and I were literally terrorized by a bug the size of my left arm. It was a flying, hissing Palmetto bug. Which is fancy southernese for a ginormous cockroach. It was just sitting in the hallway looking at us like Bruh Man did Martin whenever he crawled, unannounced, through the window. I swear, it told us it was about to make a sammich. Lila screamed first. Or maybe I did. And then we ran for my bedroom like we were running from Freddy Krueger, slammed my bedroom door closed, and screamed some more. She grabbed the broom. I got my biggest, baddest BCBG stiletto, a towel and a can of Lysol spray. And we stayed in the one room, in a three-story, five bedroom house, with the door locked and a towel stuffed at the threshold for HOURS, surviving off of a can of cashews and one bottled water until Nick got back home and hunted it down.

The exterminator couldn’t get there fast enough. In my Scarlet O’Hara voice, I made clear I could no longer live like that, with every critter known to man making its way into my doggone house. Practically five seconds after the pest control guy got to our place, he pinpointed the problem: turns out the water bugs, squirrels and ants were coming in through the roof’s soffit via a tree limb that was a virtual red carpet entrance into our place. A few expert repairs, some spray and one iron-clad “we will spray every three months and keep the bugs away forever and ever amen” contract later, I no longer felt hostage in my own home.

I tell you these things because when it comes to bugs, well, I’m a total punk. And that despite what my Daddy says about how quickly some strategic placement of Boric Acid and vinegar will kill a bug dead, dead, dead, I know a licensed pest professional with knowledge, training and the tools to identify pests can totally handle the situation better than I ever can. This is particularly true as we get deeper into Fall, when the little freaks come out of the woods and settle into our homes as they seek shelter from cold weather.

Need to pest-proof your house? Find a pest professional in your area by entering your zip code in the Find a Pro database on PestWorld.org, the go-to resource for everything you need to know about bugs, rodents and other household pests. There, you can identify your infestation and find helpful prevention tips, pest photography and videos and educational articles on a variety of pest topics, and more—plus a brave soul who will be willing to come to your house and handle that for you. Because being held hostage in your bedroom with nothing but nuts, water and your favorite stiletto is so not the business.

So you know: I recently partnered with PestWorld.org to share my personal stories about my fear of bugs. Yes, I was paid to do so. No, the check was not to say nice things about the website. As always, my opinions and experiences are my own.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. For the health of your animals and family, it’s sensible to avoid substance precautionary insect management products

  2. I didn’t think there existed anyone universe with a fear of bugs as paralyzing as my own, but clearly we’re on par. This was a thoroughly entertaining read! Locking the bedroom door? How bad a bug did you think Bruh Man Palmetto was? LOL!

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Girl? I was ready for that bad boy to knock and ask me and Lila where we kept the chips. I swear I heard it go in the refrigerator. If there was a fire, we would have left via the window. Because that bug was out in the hallway. I know, Carla. I got issues.

  3. Dead! Lmao!

    We can always tell when someone is moving in our apartment building, because the roaches and bugs start to come out of the woodworks — literally. I can handle the crawling ones, because I can usually catch them quickly enough to smash them with a shoe (though I leave them there, dead, for my hubby to pick up once he gets home. Don’t judge me). But the FLYING ones? No ma’am!

    I had a very similar experience with a “Palmetto bug” about 2 months ago. I was chasing down what I thought was a regular, garden-variety, crawling roach on my wall when that sucker spread his wings and took flight straight into my bathroom. I slammed that door so fast, I almost broke my arm, and a shoved not one, but two rolled towels into the crack between the door and the floor. And I held my pee for HOURS until my hubby came home to find and kill him. Of course, by then he’d pulled a disappearing act and I wound up killing it hours later when caught completely unaware. Still, I was shaking like a leaf, so I feel your fear, girl!

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      See what I’m saying, Jennae? I FEEL you. There was one time when a HUMONGOUS spider made it into the house and took up residence on the dining room floor—so black and round and hairy that my father, who was visiting from VA, and I could see it clear from the other side of the kitchen. Even Daddy backed up. That’s how big it was. He was like, “uh, naw baby, I’m not going to get that one.” We had to call in reinforcements: Nick. Who promptly got one of those large, red plastic cups—you know the ones you have a beer parties?—and trapped the sucker. When he flipped the spider into the cup, it covered THE ENTIRE BOTTOM OF THE CUP. I really considered calling 9-11 behind that. In fact, I would have if Nick wasn’t there. Either that, or me and Daddy and the kids would have spent the night in a hotel. That would have been money well spent.

  4. I had a run in with those flying cockroaches when I went to Florida with one of my friends in college. One of those suckers flew out of the toliet roll holder while I was in there using the bathroom. I ran and screamed and hollered and cried my way thru that house while my friend and her family laughed. They then proceeded to keep me awake all night as they took up residence and covered their back porch. It was the longest nite of my life……..I hate bugs a lot!

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