Yesteryear’s Memories: Summer Bugs – The Shoppers Weekly


In a way, it was always a summer rite of passage. Getting bit, stung, or otherwise bothered by some insect. I never was scared of any of them, but I was cautious of the kind that sting. The boys in my fourth grade class in fact had a kind of love/hate relationship with bugs. We loved to play with lady bugs; they were easiest to catch and pretty much harmless. Some people said they bite, but I was never on the receiving end of that. Equally fun and easy to grab were sow bugs (or pill bugs or roly-polies). I later learned that they aren’t bugs at all, but crustaceans. Either way, they were bugs to us and fun to roll up into little balls. And who hasn’t gone out in the early evening to catch lightning bugs in a jar? I always tried to catch enough to light up my room but never achieved the goal. A praying mantis was the coolest thing to find. They were harder to spot, but looked to me like some kind of creature from outer space.

One summer, though, my best friend and I set out to capture an entire museum of critters. We made up a cork board and planned on using it for a science project. We searched all around both of our backyards, we prowled the vacant lots with tall weeds, we even explored down by the creek a few blocks away. We took each specimen and pinned it to the board, labeling each one with the name and scientific name we looked up in the encyclopedia. We spent afternoons looking for and gathering Monarch butterflies, fuzzy caterpillars, even the creepy centipedes from under rocks. We dug up grub worms with their evil looking pinchers and big fat beetles with the rainbow colors on their wings. It was quite an endeavor, and we ended up with a big assortment of the creepiest, crawliest little beasts. It was something to be proud of, and we showed it off to our families and friends. By this time, the summer vacation was almost over and it was time to head back to school. I never really liked school. I preferred to spend my time roaming around the neighborhood and reading comic books, but this year was different. We had something to show off and maybe win a prize for our science project.

It was the first week of school, and we were ready to spring our big surprise on the teacher. The science fair was still a few weeks away, but we couldn’t wait to wow the science teacher. We went to my friend’s garage on the fateful morning, excited to bring the big display to class. We opened the box where it was carefully stored. There we saw the frame, the pins, and the labels — but no bugs. Each pin was exactly where it was, but there was only a sprinkling of parts here and there. A leg, part of a wing, and some unidentifiable specks appeared around the bottom.

My friend started yelling at me, “What did you do?” He was mad.

“I didn’t do anything!” I yelled back. I thought it was a joke, and maybe he just hid them. It wasn’t what happened, though. When we raised up the box, we saw a little trail of industrious insects. And they were carrying off the last of the display. The shock hit us. Some bugs ate our bugs!

All our work was down the drain. The museum was closed, cleaned out. We were robbed. I guess it was meant to be. We learned that nature took care of itself, even cleaned up. And we couldn’t even start over because some of those bugs only appear for a week or two at a time. My grandmother told me that it was in the Bible — “Don’t store up treasures on Earth where moths may eat and vermin destroy.”I tacked on my own addendum. “Don’t store your treasures — on an anthill.”

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