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The Mighty Earwig

One of the things I have had to come to terms with when I switched to not only eating local but to having a holistic household in general is that I am living much more closely with nature now.  Without chemicals and pesticides on my food and floors, I find bugs in the strangest places.  Several time, for example, I have opened my fridge to find a snail crawling across the milk jug or up one of the interior walls.  I’ve found spiders in the shower and caterpillars crawling across my kitchen window.  One bright green one disappeared before I could put it outside and several days later I found a beautiful lime green butterfly flapping around my house.  It disappeared only to turn up in my freezer, frozen solid. 

For the most part, I don’t mind this.  These insects are like canaries in the mine, and seeing them alive and well in my house and on my food tells me that my environment is indeed becoming less toxic.  Of all insects that I share my house and garden with, however, there is one that I just can’t bear: the earwig. 

Why the earwig you ask?  Well, let me tell you a story…

Years ago I had a little sail boat that I kept stored upside down on the lawn by the lake, raised up on a couple of two by fours.  One windy day I took it out for a spin.  As I was gearing up to launch, I noticed a few earwigs crawling around on the deck.  I brushed them off and and got on my way.   Once out on the water, I discovered it was windier than I thought.  Very soon I was hiking nearly my full body out of the boat to keep from tipping over.  It was a wonderful feeling: the wind whipping through my hair as I sped along, almost like flying, not a care in the world.   

Not a care, that is, until a wave washed over the deck and soaked the neoprene tube covering my hiking strap (the strap that was keeping my feet – and therefore me – attached to the boat).  At that moment, I suddenly discovered that the tube had become home to a colony of earwigs. 

What followed was like a scene out of Indian Jones (at least in my mind).  Their home suddenly flooded, hundreds of panicking earwigs rushed en-mass to find higher and drier ground.  And there was only one place for them to go: on me.

Now I’m not one to panic easily and most of the animal and insect world fascinates me far more than it scares me.  But when I looked down and saw a squirming, crawling, black shiny mass racing up my legs, I did the only thing any sane person would do.  I screamed, let go of the sail, pulled my feet out of the hiking straps and leapt as far away from the bugs as I possibly could.

Which meant I also leapt as far away as I could from my boat.  That of course landed me in the lake while the boat sailed off without me.  I didn’t even notice, however, as the earwigs that had been on my legs were scrambling up my face and my hair. 

I can’t tell you how long I stayed under water, and how far I swam before coming up for air again, but eventually I got away from the bugs.  By then the boat had capsized and I was luckily able to catch up with it (the first rule of sailing is to never let go of the boat!).  The last of the bugs washed away, I enjoyed an afternoon of sailing and made it home to tell the tale.  To this day, however, I freak out when I unexpectedly come across an earwig.

So what does all this have to do with local food?  Well, I’ll tell you, but this is not for the squeamish. 

Yesterday I was opened a nice jar of homemade pickles – given to me by a friend from her personal pantry – to go with lunch.  The lid was corroded and I had to struggle and struggle to get it off.  At last, as I leaned in close, the seal finally gave way and off popped off the lid.  And out of the jar popped…

…an earwig.  A giant, slimy, wet and very alive earwig.

I’m sure you could hear my scream from Toronto.  How on earth did this bug survive in a sealed jar of vinegar for 6 months?  Forget cockroaches, if we ever have a nuclear war (or general global disaster) earwigs are going to take over the world. 

The pickles, of course, are a lost cause.  There’s no way I’m going to eat them now.  I even had trouble eating pickles at a friend’s this afternoon, although I forced myself to in order to “get back on the horse.” I also bought some carefully inspected, certified ‘earwig-free’ pickles at the Western Fair market.  But the problem remained: what to do with this darn bug?

Yes, he is still in the jar, which is sitting on my counter with the lid firmly back in place.  The obvious answer for most people is “kill him.”  But how can I kill something that survived such a horrible ordeal?  I mean, imagine being trapped in a jar of vinegar for 6 months, only to be squished seconds after finally being set free.  Call me crazy, but I just couldn’t do it.  I also couldn’t just pour him outside because it’s -10 and he’d freeze solid.  Maybe I should wash him down the drain, as after the pickle jar, a sewer should be a walk in the park.   Then again, I probably don’t want this particular bug to survive.  The last thing we need is for him to spawn a colony of super earwigs in our drainpipes.  

5 Responses

  1. Great humor, er, how do you know your earwig is a ‘he’? Subtle Hillaryism?
    BTW, loved your sailing description. Had a hiking strap break once myself. Only the tiller extension saved me.

  2. Funny stories and you tell them well!

  3. Ah, yes, the earwig. Not sure how to help you with this dilemma, but your tale resonated. I frequently find slugs, etc., in my organic lettuce and my fruit & veg inspections have become much more thorough. Like, microscopic! Insects are all well and good, but eating one…???? No, thanks.

  4. Oh dear the earwig I get the creeps just thinking about it. 1 Time i was about to go to bed… and walking over i felt something tickling my toes, THE MIGHTY EARWIG i found something to kill it but i could never sleep that night.

  5. I think the earwig was hding under the lid in the area where the threads make contact with the jar. There is a space between the jar and the lid that they can hide without actually being inside the jar of pickles.

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