Weatherford Democrat

July 7, 2013

NOW HEAR THIS: Bugs are what routinely bug me


Weatherford Democrat

— By LARRY M. JONES



KDFW-Fox 4 news has a regular segment covered primarily by Saul Garza entitled “What’s Bugging You?” Here he answers questions from viewers or helps to solve disputes between them and businesses or government agencies. He has phenomenal success, because almost no one wants such negative publicity aired on local television.

Being bugged or having something bug you can have more than one meaning, but most frequently we think of it as having an annoyance – like gnats or mosquitoes constantly buzzing around your face. More specifically, these “bugs” are generally of the phylum Arthropoda, and even more specifically, the class Insecta. These are the little critters with six legs, not eight like spiders, even though spiders “bug” me, too.

I’ve always been fascinated by bugs. With a heritage firmly entrenched in farming and ranching, I quickly learned as a small child that bugs, particularly insects, can have severe consequences with regard to your eating habits. Like the locust plagues cited in the Bible, grasshoppers and other insects can devastate our crops, gardens and lawns. In the past decade we seem to have had the worst grasshopper infestation that I can remember. Despite expensive applications of pesticides, they have routinely destroyed half of my coastal hay meadows and pastures, if not more.

Although I studied insects and other bugs while taking both high school and college general biology, I really didn’t get seriously interested in it until I took entomology at Texas Tech University back in the Stone Age.

Entomology is the study of insects, according to most accepted definitions. It so happens that insects are the most numerous organisms on earth, with roughly half of all species belonging to the class. That’s a lot of critters, folks. It was during this first entomology class that I found that almost every noxious insect pest could be found in abundance in Texas – or it at least seemed that way.

As part of our insect studies, each class member was required to collect, mount, classify and submit a collection of as many of the various orders of insects as we could find. First, we had to come up with a “killing jar” to euthanize the critters so they could be mounted and displayed. The deadly chemical of choice was ethyl acetate – fingernail polish remover. Bet you ladies never knew you were wiping your fingers in such a deadly concoction.

One of the most fun parts of the collection process was displaying the varieties of beautiful butterflies and moths. The only thing better was to collect mosquito samples for a research project as a graduate assistant. I got paid for that project.

Even today down on the “pore farm” I get regularly bugged by a menagerie of critters that is seemingly without end. Although only members of one of the 31 orders of insects, Hemiptera, are considered true “bugs,” I think the definition should be expanded to include spiders, ticks, chiggers and scorpions, at a minimum.

In fact, anything that annoys or “bugs” me should perhaps be considered bugs. Along with the aforementioned, we could include feral hogs, network television, South Main Street traffic, politicians and Jesse Jackson. I’d include the IRS, but it seems that they do their own bugging.

Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to nowhearthis@pwhome.com.