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.
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.