I instantly recognized the evidence. They were back. My heartrate sped up. “This time will be different,” I told myself. This time I know what I’m dealing with.
Three years ago I noticed a few. I was curious. I admired their beauty. The next day there were more, and along with them large swaths of once lush green leaves turned to delicate skeletons of crumbling brown. A week later, the geraniums, petunias, and hibiscus were gone.
It was the worst infestation in years. Iridescent emerald green with bronze wings, Japanese beetles are pretty and little. They practically glow when they are in a favorite spot—summer sunlight—eating a favorite food: roses. My rooftop garden provides both.
The recommended way to be rid of these pesky pests is pick them off by hand and place them in a bucket of water. I was determined to do everything in my power not to let these tiny shiny creatures destroy what I had been working for months to create.
There was about to be a lot of sacred beetle burial baths.
With only about 40 days from birth to death, they waste no time in eating, reproducing and eating and reproducing as quickly as they can. Like us, they’re just fighting for survival.
This year, they’d begun their battle on my defenseless miniature tangerine roses. Overnight leaves were riddled with holes and petite blooms gobbled. This year I vowed to beat the beetles in the battle.
Showing off their shine in the early morning sun (best to get them before they’re really awake), they are easy to spot. I pick one with my bare had. It jumps. I jump. I pick another. In the single second that my hand travels to the bucket, the beetle begins to flap its wings in panic. I panic. I open my hand and it flies to freedom.
The flutter of this defenseless insect who was about to die had me reacting as though it were a tiger jumping out from the bushes about to devour me. Such are the neuropathways of the brain. Wired for survival, they remember that some bugs and some sudden movements can kill us.
During the pandemic I’ve been trying to breathe more deeply I notice I’m holding my breath. Was I really frightened of a harmless insect that was smaller than the nail on my littlest finger? Yep.
I remind myself that I am safe. After a mere moment of discomfort it will be over. I hoped it was the same for the bright little bug.
After days of diligence, the beetles departed. My fears of losing my bed of bachelor buttons and yarrow never came to pass.
I breathed a sigh of relief, remembering that the past is not the present, my worst fears rarely come true, and some things are worth fighting for.
Are you scared when there’s no need to be?
Have you taken on a battle you’re determined to win?
Are you willing to endure discomfort for something you value?