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Idle Vacuum Is Put Into Service To Attack Infestation Of Lady Bugs

Idle Vacuum Is Put Into Service To Attack Infestation Of Lady Bugs

When I whine about something in the South, I do not mean to imply that life in the North is picture perfect. We have nor’easters, ice storms and slimy garden snails that I captured and buried in an old coffee can full of salt. Late trains, traffic snarled at the George Washington Bridge (we call it the GW) or an accident on the Long Island Expressway (known as the LIE) can delay us for hours. 

One requires vigor to keep pace in Manhattan sidewalk lanes and thick skin when yelled at for veering into the biker’s lane to hustle past tourists. Surviving in the North demands resiliency and humor. All of my northern strength training has been called upon in my adjustment to the South. 

My current workout involves ladybugs. They rush out of old-wood window frames to greet the first warm, sunny days and stay to fall into my coffee cup, crawl across my computer screen and stick to the soles of my new ecru-colored socks. 

One dive-bombed into the bathroom mirror while I brushed my teeth, four drowned in a vase holding winter evergreens on the kitchen windowsill.  To its regret, yet another found a way into the refrigerator where it rested, immobilized in the cold, clinging to a limp carrot.

The most common advice is the one offered by Miss Cinnamon Foster during a visit to the kitchen last year. Vacuum them up, she said. At the time, I was occupied with survival and ignored minor inconveniences such as swarming ladybugs. I squashed them with a paper towel and scrubbed my fingers of their offensive, oily smell.

This year things are calmer; it was time to follow the advice of Mississippi veterans. Shifting boxes around in the shed, I found my idle New York vacuum and hauled it into the house. The canister has been on sabbatical because I loathe housework and my Water Valley housekeeper keeps me up to speed, as she says, with her own cleaner.

Then came a moment of truth. Where was the plug? Where did the hoses go? Where was the bag for all those smelly bugs? Trial and error and a black step stool from Dollar General put me in position.

With a roar, the vacuum pulled the ladybugs through its curling hose and in minutes, cleared a window. Realistic about my attention span, I chose to focus on only four windows and soon I had evicted every ladybug. Feeling a bit smug with my ingenuity, I returned to admire the first cleared window.

The family of the executed ladybugs had crawled out and zigged and zagged across the panes frantically looking for its relatives. I swung from obsessiveness to indifference and back again as the campaign to rid 62 Lafayette of the offending dotted insects gradually slowed. The hatching schedule played out, the ladybugs became smaller and the dead along the baseboards lessened.

Eventually I located the vacuum bag filled with corpses but could not figure out how to install a fresh grave for next season’s crop. Leaving that problem for someone else, I gathered its hoses and lugged the cleaner back to its home in the shed. After locking it in, I turned and headed across the yard.

And good grief, there waited the telltale signs crisscrossing the lawn. The dreaded fire ants had already set up housekeeping and black mounds spread across the yard.

While aphids on roses and blight on dogwoods were left on Long Island, a new southern campaign begins with strong chemicals at dawn, a teakettle of boiling water at dusk. 

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