Wednesday, July 9, 2008


No, not Bunny. Not the cartoon. I mean the live kind, little gnat things, mosquitoes, moths, those little creatures that gather in masses to ruin your quiet evening in the great outdoors. That kind. Well, yesterday, Ellie came home with a bug-zapper--one of those black wire cage contraptions with an eerie blue light in the center, to which flying insects of all kinds are attracted to their instant, sizzling extinction.

It was a kind thought--at least where I'm concerned. We have a lovely balcony that overlooks the Hollywood Hills. At sunset, when the cool ocean breeze (usually) flows in to nudge out the heat of the day, it's a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the gathering dusk. The bugs seem to like it just as much as we humans do, however, and they have a nasty attraction to human flesh. For some reason best known to themselves, they seem to prefer my flesh to Ellie's: I can't sit out there for more than five minutes without that familiar itchy feeling down around the ankles--their preferred target. When I feel one of settle in for a pleasant dinner at my expense... well, Buddhist principles or no, I do confess, I slap 'em. I don't just brush 'em off, I slap 'em. It's instinctive, uncontrollable, a gesture of pure self-defense. Only afterwards do I reflect that I've taken the life of a living being, to whom I should have been sending goodwill and compassion.

But a bug-zapper... That's another matter. That's malice aforethought, a deliberate, coldly conscious intention to instigate death. We debated the issue throughout the evening. This morning, on our exercise walk around the hill, we debated it further with our friend and neighbor, Nancy. She voiced my own opinion, that the sound of death by electrocution is blood-curdling, even when it's "only" bugs that are the victims. The slap is a much more human sound, and one for which one can, after all, accept personal responsibility. The bug-zapper is by comparison, well, inhuman. And there are always those yellow candles with the nasty smell...

So, finally, after much debate and anguished self-examination, the bug-zapper went back, this morning, to the hardware store. What do you say, you good folk who read these words? Do you use bug-zappers? Do you have wonderful alternative remedies to share? Some of you, surely, live in mosquito-infested territories and have patented methods of bug-deterrence. Let me hear from you. Please.

9 comments: said...

I was watching a television program the other night on the History Channel. A supposed member of the Church of Satan (?) was interviewed and talked about how, to mice, our lovely, huggable house cat is a two-fanged terror to be avoided. I wonder where the parallel is with respect to these insects and your ankles? Best, John

PeterAtLarge said...

John, yes, interesting. But I don't eat the bugs I kill. (Not that hungry, yet!) The lovely, huggable house cat's instinct to kill persists, despite the daily meals provided by its human.

robin andrea said...

I am the one in our household who mosquitoes and spiders are most attracted to. Roger never gets bitten. We haven't encountered mosquitoes in quite a while, and I'm not sure why that is. I did notice some in our new backyard, but I haven't been attacked yet. I read once that biting insects are drawn to people with vitamin b deficiencies. I'll have to look that up again. I've also read something about dark and light clothing, but I can't really remember which attracts or repels.

I agree with your assessment of bug zappers. I think they are cruel, and they are indiscriminate in their lethality.

Mark said...

I'm also glad the bug zapper went back to the store. It's easy to kill bugs when you think about them as annoying stinging objects, but when you change your terminology to use terms like "animals" and "living beings," it suddenly becomes much more difficult to indiscriminately fry them, you know?
I currently live in a really old house in a rather run-down old neighborhood in Springfield which has a moist, dank basement. It's a perfect place for one of Missouri's two deadly spiders, the brown recluse, to thrive. Consequently, I see a few of them lurking about on occasion. While my roommates insist that they are terrible creatures which need to be smashed, I usually take a few minutes out of my day to catch them and release them in a nearby thicket. After all, they're just doing what they're supposed to do, and as far as I'm concerned being born a spider who likes a particular environment which my house happens to provide doesn't warrant death.

lindsey said...

Mosquitoes and ticks love me...unfortunately I don't return their sentiments.

The three summers I worked at a church camp I took garlic every day and wore an all-natural lemongrass bug spray, which seemed to do a pretty effective job, but I've also heard (as Robin Andrea mentioned)taking B vitamins works well.

Another camp technique I used was not showering more than once a week and sitting (quite literally) in the campfire ring every night, but I'm not sure that works in the real world. ;-)

thailandchani said...

Spiders and such, I catch them and put them outside. If I am on their territory, I figure they have right of way.

However.. (isn't there always a 'however'), those flying critters, I can't stand! I have citronela candles but occasionally, I just have to swat one. The mosquitos here have been the size of crows!

PeterAtLarge said...

Robin, I think it's just really NICE people who attract these creatures--no reflection on Roger. See also Lindsey, below...

Mark, I lack your bravery when it comes to spiders. Down at our Laguna Beach cottage, we have cockroaches. I'm a total wimp, and leave their human disposal--out the window--to Ellie, who is much braver than me.

Lindsey, no showers for a week sounds a little... rank. But I'm sure it discourages visitors of all species.

And Chani, I'm so relieved to have a fellow-swatter! Crows, eh? Bloated with having dined on human flesh, no doubt.

Thanks to all. I'm still looking for the sure-fire remedy.

They call him James Ure said...

When it comes to mosquitoes I tend to smack them but when I'm out in nature I lather up in bug spray so they avoid me altogether for the most part.

Compassion is important but so is compassion for ourselves and our loved ones. Mosquitos are known carriers of disease such a West Nile and malaria. So sometimes it's best to swat them.

Although after getting malaria 4 times in Africa I'm probably immune. Ha!! Sadly they still love my blood. Much more than my wife and when they bite, my bumps swell up huge.

That being said, I catch most of our bugs with this neat little bug catcher that's really easy to use and effective to use. And it's inexpensive. It's the best $4 bucks I've ever spent.

It's called the Bug Buddy. said...

So can you guess how I found this blog? Well I googled "Buddhist bug zappers" just to see if I can find people with my dilemma.
Anyway, I have six ferrets all of which have the run of a particular area in the house. Ferrets, while awake, love to do all those things like eat, poop, and beat the crap out of eachother. Even though I clean their messes up continuously, I remember one large fly getting in the house. Then about three days later there were roughly 200 more. My girlfriend has no problem killing them but the most I've done is let them out the windows they're at.
Today there were so many in one area I was getting somewhat angry...and yeah, this is my own fault considering I'm the one that decided (well we both decided) to have messy ferrets. In other words, it's not the fly's fault so who am I to kill them?
She still insists upon fogging the place but that usually only works for a few days then all of the sudden they're back. No matter how much cleaning we do they just keep getting it on with eachother and procreating like mad..
Your thoughts are always welcome. I'm thinking what I will do is wait til the winter because our furnace is broke. So in this case nature killed them instead.
See, I'm very strong Buddhist so I basically treat all life like I'd treat myself...unless of course it's someone who truly deserves to be offed...kidding...
Well thanks for the input so be well.