Domestic calamities come in all sizes and shapes. This one, I grant you is small, but since I am a writer who believes all molehills can be made into mountains — or at least blogs, please read my sad saga of the gnats that plague my plants, my house, indeed my very soul.
Since we moved to Reno, NV., last year, my home has been Infestation Central. We’ve had ants. We’ve had bats. Yes, bats — marauding, defecating, and peeing under our front porch!
Gnats, Be Gone
Now, we’ve got gnats. Fungus gnats. They’re allegedly harmless, but they’re disgusting. They congregate by the dozens, hundreds, bazillions — swarming like locusts — in and around my beautiful and beloved houseplants.
They’ve taken up residence in the kitchen, in the bathroom, and in my office. So far, the living room and the family room seem safe, but I don’t know for how long.
By way of background: I am not an outdoor gardener specifically because I am bug-phobic. No digging in the dirt for me. There are ants, spiders, worms, and Heaven knows what other creepy crawly things lurk underground. And don’t get me started about all those aboveground insects that fly, swoop, and sting! I shudder at the mere thought.
The official term for my fear is entomophobia. Some sufferers have such extreme anxiety or fear when seeing or thinking about insects, they won’t walk or exercise outside. I’m not that bad off, but I am the kind of girly girl/woman who shrieks at the sight of a spider and screams for Handsome Hubby to kill a fly.
Once Upon a Time
I’m not proud of the following story, but I share it because it illustrates the depths of my bugginess. Long ago, some huge flying, buzzy thingy swooped into the dining room. I screamed and fled, abandoning my tiny toddler to God knows what stinging, biting fate awaited him.
My mother, fortunately, was made of better maternal stuff. She sprang into action. She grabbed the baby in one arm and with the other, used an embroidered cloth napkin to swat the vicious critter. She killed it with one flick of the wrist.
By the time I emerged from the back of the house, shame-faced, she had disposed of the corpse of a massive wasp, returned my baby to his high chair, and was feeding him the rest of his dinner.
She didn’t lecture me about my clearly lacking maternal response. In fact, she barely glanced at me. Still, the look she gave me! Ouch! If looks could kill, I surely would have been flat on the floor with my legs up in the air like a dead bug! That look of contempt stung worse than the wasp’s stinger!
Bonkers Over Bugs
Anyway, you get the idea! I have a “slight” problem with insects. That’s why I cherish my indoor plants. They are (or at least were) a reliable bug-free zone.
At last count, I had 50 houseplants. I tend to them with religious-like devotion. I water them regularly, taking care to provide just the right amount. No telltale overwatered yellow or dry withered leaves will you ever find on my plants! No, sir! I dust the leaves gently. Fertilize them on a set schedule. They thrive. I beam. They are a source of inordinate pride.
After the Pride? The Fall
So, for neatnik, bug-phobic me to suddenly have a MASSIVE gnat infestation is unthinkable. To have these tiny flying fiends take over my well-tended plants is an unbearable affront to my heart and hearth.
So, I’ve declared war! To end this pestilence, I have marshaled all the resources of the Internet and staged a multi-week, multi-pronged assault which includes:
Spraying the soil and leaves with soapy water
Segregating the infected, afflicted plants as if they have the plague, COVID-19, and the pox combined
Using a systemic larvae-killing product “guaranteed” by the neighbor nursery
Appling hydrogen peroxide to the soil
Covering the topsoil with a layer of sand
Cursing and shrieking
Purchasing a pricy blue-light sticky plug-in device that attracts bugs (somewhat effective but gross)
Simultaneously purchasing yellow sticky traps which go into the soil to “catch” more gnats (also gross, but less effective)
But still, the gnats persist, exist, and indeed, multiply.
Defeat and Death Row
Finally, this past weekend, I declared defeat and moved several large plants out to the garage to “Death Row,” where they wait for Handsome Hubby to hoist them up into the trash can to be carted away to that great beyond — the dump site.
They were once green delights of beauty, but they have torments to me.