Crawling caterpillars season

Since I can remember, I never really liked insects.

I can’t pinpoint a specific moment that might have triggered my disgust or this borderline phobia-like fear of things like spiders, cockroaches, centipedes and other similar creatures.

But watching “The Mummy” (1999) at the ripe age of 8 might have had an effect. Especially that scene where the black beetle attacks a character, gets under his skin and crawls around… Yeah that might have contributed to this irrational fear. Here is the scene if you really want to watch the moment I’m referencing. But you’ve been warned.

Maybe I should also blame that moment when my mom and I came back to our apartment in Moscow after two weeks of vacation to find cockroaches everywhere… They appeared to be dead. But they were in a lot of places. Argh. I was 9. It was an impactful scene for a 9-year-old.

In any case, I just don’t like when things crawl anywhere near me. It makes me uncomfortable.

Over the years, I grew to be somewhat okay with small spiders. I’m also okay with flies and little ants, in general.

In Chicago, though, my phobia of the crawling things really was tested by the presence of centipedes, which live in the cracks of many old buildings in the city.

I lived by myself in a studio apartment for about four years. And I had to come to terms with that fear because several fat, hairy centipedes had the guts to come into my sight while I either innocently sat on my couch and watched a movie, or cooked a meal or cleaned the floor under my bed with a Swiffer.

I had to become brave, grab a cleaning spray bottle and a paper towel and kill those fast motherfuckers.

When you move to a new place, you get accosted by new types of crawlers.

California so far has been pretty perfect. Maybe a bit too perfect.

But a week or so, I got introduced the resident crawlers here as well. San Francisco Bay Area’s crawlers come out during the spring — green-black moth caterpillars. The specific ones I have been seeing everywhere are called Tussok moth caterpillars.

A Tussok moth caterpillar crawling on the pavement on Stanford University’s campus. (Alex Shashkevich Photos)

They hang off of trees. Dozens of them. And then they drop on you. On your hair. Your shoulders. I heard they also bite…

I met one of them while eating breakfast at work. Still sleepy, I reached for my cup of coffee when I noticed something moving next to it. I jumped back and pulled my hand away instinctively. That small dose of adrenaline definitely woke me up quick.

At least, no caterpillar has landed on my head yet.


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