Another blog about bugs.

I feel like the insects at Custer State Park read my bug-killing blog and it made them mad.

This morning I woke up with not one, but two new mosquito bites of unknown origin. I’ve stopped leaving my window open and I couldn’t hear them when I laid there in the quiet of the night, so I can’t explain it.

While I was taking pictures of people having fun in the sun at Angostura Reservoir, I relized they have a fire ant problem. They’re everywhere. I saw the majority of them in the sandy areas near the beach – I don’t know much about insect habitats and lifestyles, but these guys were huge red ants that I would not want crawling near me. I’ll admit that I’m probably exaggerating a little; I actually just saw a few here and there, but they were big enough to leave an impression.

Then, to top it all off, as I walked into the office after shooting some photos today, I looked down at the pavement to see what I thought was a half-crushed bee dragging itself along the pavement. As I was about to put him out of his misery with the bottom of my shoe, I realized that it was in fact a giant black ant carrying a dead bee’s body home to feed his family.

It was as if the ant was saying, “Look how much I can lift. Look how much I’ve bulked up. Next time, I come for you.”

Deer; they’re really not that cool.

Tourists are great – they’re what keep this park running. We’re all here to serve them and make their experience more enjoyable and I like that. I like helping people.

But the things some people do just drive me completely insane.

Wild animals roam this entire park freely, including the roads. This means that there are often buffalo, mountain goats and other animals right on the side of the road – and sometimes directly on it. Why, in the name of everything that is holy, do you need to stop in the middle of the road and take a picture of the deer?

Buffalo: I get it. They’re big, hairy, uncommon, and monstrous.
Big horn sheep: I get it. They’re fluffy and uncommon.
Antelope: I get it. You’re all like, “Whoa, aren’t those supposed to be in Africa?”
Miscellaneous small animals: I get it. You don’t want to hit them with your car and then you’re all, “Ohhhhh, so cute!”

But seriously, there are so many deer in the Midwest that they could probably take over if they had half a mind to. If you really want a picture of one, just drive down the interstate for a couple hours and you’ll easily be able to hit one with your car and get a really up close photo. Instead, the tourists come here and stop on the roads to take pictures of deer grazing casually up on the hill. It clogs up traffic and creates chaos on the roads – especially when I’m in a hurry.

I’ll allow people from the east or west coasts to be excluded from this rant because there’s a possibility that they honestly have never seen a deer in real life before, but if you have a Midwestern license plate and you’re stopped in the road gawking out the window at the deer, there’s just no excuse that I can think of.

In fact, here; have this picture of a deer. That way you won’t have to stop and take one.

Here’s another one:

Here’s a funny one from the depths of the Internet:

You can even click on this link and read another blog post about deer. Problem solved.

The Moral Implications of Killing A Gnat – An Essay

I love nature and I love animals, but I have limits.

I live with and hang out with people who, for the most part, really love nature and all of its creatures – even the creepy crawly ones. I understand that bugs and spiders are an important part of the ecosystem, but if a fly lands within my reach I’m going to kill it.

But the other seasonal workers are totally against this. I once saw a park naturalist pick up a tiny winged gnat/bug/fly thing (one that we have millions of) and LET IT OUTSIDE. He didn’t kill it or smash it, he LET IT BACK OUTSIDE. We also like to sit on the cement porch out in front of the dorm building where the occasional spider likes to toddle by. My immediate reaction is to squish it before it can get anywhere near my bed or my hair, but this clearly bothers many of my friends here at the park. They seriously expect me to let these tiny, egg-laying creatures live.

But what if they lay their eggs in my room? Or worse, in my hair?

Meet my best friend, Raid.

Meet my best friend, Raid.


I would understand if it were mammals. I’m a hunter, but I still find squirrels and birds to be fascinating and sometimes cute. But bugs are different! They’re so tiny you can’t see their eyeballs and they don’t (can’t?) have feelings…right? My friends don’t seem to care either way and always plead for me not to kill the insects.

I just don’t get it.

Last night, for instance, we were watching a movie when a gnat landed on my computer screen. When I say ‘gnat,’ I mean a tiny, fruit-fly-gnat-thing. They’re so tiny you don’t even see them until they land on something. My automatic reaction was to reach out and quickly squish it with my thumb, but my attempt was thwarted.

“Stop, why are you doing that?” my friend grabbed my wrist before I could commit my crime. I, of course, thought he simply hadn’t seen the offending insect.

“There’s a gnat,” I explained. “I’m going to kill it.”

“Why?” he asked.

Why? Why? Because it exists and it’s in my way, that’s why. Because it’s tiny and could maybe bite me and leave a tiny red, itchy welt. Because they’re annoying. Because there are a lot of them and I feel like the population should be depleted a little.

I acknowledge that kind of thinking has started countless horrific events in human history like the Holocaust, genocide in Darfur, and the Spanish Inquisition. Things shouldn’t be eliminated or killed simply because they’re different, they’re in my way or they might do something bad. But I’m talking about bugs, not humans.

But at least I get where my friends are coming from now. That gnat hadn’t done anything bad or harmful towards me…yet. So, I didn’t kill the little guy and let him crawl around on my screen for a good twenty minutes. Maybe I’m a bad person because I killed him the second nobody was looking, but I think the fact that I’m having this inner dialogue about the moral implications of killing insects is at least a small step in the right direction.

Walking to work

The path I walk to work on winds along next to highway 16A just far enough away from the road so that you feel like nobody would be able to see it if a mountain lion attacked you. Because of this, it’s a little unnerving to hear things (animals, plants, murderers, rhinos?) rustle in the grass as you walk by.

Two days ago it was a snake – I don’t know what kind. Today at lunch it was three small birds that were eerily silent as they flew out of the grass inches from my foot. And this isn’t short, manicured grass. This is nature. When I began work, the blades were up to my knee at the highest, but now, they’re nearly to my chin in places. It’s like going on a mini safari four times a day.

And yes, I do jump sometimes when animals fly/crawl/hang-glide out of nowhere. A couple of times I have even squealed. As a result, I’ve taken to humming or quietly singing to myself as I walk along so that the animals hear me coming sooner and fly out ahead of me, instead of at me. This makes me appear mildly crazy to the tourists who pass me by, but I don’t care. I’m tired of being constantly on guard going to and from work. I can’t imagine living in those third world countries where you have to be constantly aware of your surroundings and I now accept that I probably wouldn’t survive a zombie apocalypse because they would be able to hide in the tall grass and get me.

And there are still two deer who like to hide in the grass until I’m nearly upon them before they decide to run away – usually in the direction of the main highway so that they can stand in front of cars (I swear, they enjoy doing that).

All I’m saying is that it’s never a boring day at Custer State Park.

Bzzzzz

The mosquitos have hatched and they’re out in full force. I got spoiled last year by living in an arid and dry part of California where I didn’t have to worry about such things, but this summer is going to be different.

They’re everywhere, and they’re vicious. If you go outside after dusk, you had better be doused in bug spray or you’re going to be eaten alive. I tried to go on a hike one evening, got halfway down a trail and literally ran the entire route back to the dorms just so that I wouldn’t get bitten. And I haven’t run more than half a mile since 6th grade.

And the thing is I’m pretty sure they don’t spray for mosquitos in the park because they don’t want to harm the other wildlife or mess with the natural order of things. I’m all for being natural, but these mosquitos are going to be the death of me. Either that, or I’m going to get in really good shape from running around all the time so that they can’t land on me.

Ode to Kelli

Kelli is one of the girls who lives in the dorms with us and everyone should know that this girl is an AMAZINGLY good cook. She likes to take something random, like sour cream or mashed potatoes, and put them in cake. While this might sound disgusting, it is in fact the opposite and makes pastries more moist and decadent than anything I’ve ever eaten before. She also makes doughnuts and beer bread like a pro, and at this rate I’m going to get pretty fat living here.

I grew up with a mother who is a fabulous cook. My aunt and her husband also know their way around a kitchen really well, and I’m not too shabby myself (no Mom, I don’t cook that often, but it’s because I’m controlling in a kitchen.) Maybe it’s because I haven’t been home in a long time, but Kelli’s food is simply to die for. She deserves an award.

That is all.