You may have heard that bugs in the tropics are big—huge moths and exotic butterflies. This is true. The moth in the photo is larger than my hand. The circles on its wings are transparent, like sheer curtains. There are also massive amounts of bugs here, swarms of dragonflies hover around the marketplace like drones on a strike. Deadly bugs, too, mosquitoes that carry four types of malaria, and one special tiger-striped specialist with the gift of dengue fever. Spiders that I’ve encountered are large and fast, sensitive to our innate dislike of their kind.
Before I came to Cambodia, I decided not to remain a speciest. I would embrace the marvel of diversity in this wide world; all creatures large and small have a place in it. Why should I love only puppies and not love snakes? I think the answer is hardwired. So far I’ve only seen one little live snake, and several squashed roadside varieties. When the Peace Corps Medical Officer showed us photos of what lethal snakebite looks like, I liked spiders better. She said there are no deadly spiders in Cambodia. She also said snakes usually don’t climb stairs. I’m very glad my room is on the second floor.
I’m still working on my get along attitude. When a black beetle the size of match box fell out of the sky onto my head one night in S’aang, I yodeled loud enough for neighbors on both sides to know about it. I have an involuntary jump and scream reflex that cannot be retrained with reason: it’s only a bug. I loathe the ubiquitous fly. I must pause writing this to whack one right now. (PC’s magazine World View is the just the right sized murder weapon It’s also an interesting read.) Ants ants ants are everywhere. An errant stag horn beetle crash-landed on the balcony. Ants deconstructed it—within twenty-four hours only two of its claw feet remained. No clue where the pieces ended up. Must be a recycling center somewhere around here. Ants come in all sizes, too. The tiniest ants are the ones that bite your toes and create stinging welts. The red ants are big enough to show off massive pinchers. With ants it’s best to just get out of their way.
There are a number, a large number actually, of bugs that have no recognizable classification to my untrained eye. These are the bugs that manage to sift through the mosquito net and fall like pepper onto the white sheets of my bed and myself. Late at night these minuscule bugs drown themselves in pools of sweat collected around my collarbone or in the salty rivers of the creases of my arms. In the morning my bare feet feel the soft bodied bugs sprinkled about my room. It’s like walking on a sandy beach. Some of these tiny bugs have died in the mosquito net. Part of my early morning ritual is to flip bugs off the net and sweep the whole peppery pile out the door. Got to make room for this evening's new arrivals.