Summer is drawing to a close, and to make myself feel a little better about the autumn chill in the air, I’m going to take this opportunity to discuss creepy crawly buzzy creatures you only find during the otherwise idyllic summer months. Who knows? It might just make you feel better about the impending cold, too!
Insectophobia is one of the most common phobias worldwide. Its effects can range from mildly irritating to devastatingly crippling. Some people won’t even leave their houses for fear of encountering even the most inoffensive of insects.
I didn’t always identify as insectophobic, reasoning that my fears did not impede my life enough to qualify as bona fide phobias. I’ve since changed my mind, and use the label quite freely. I am irrationally afraid of many different types of insects, and I’m not alone. Many of the people I know have similar fear or disgust reactions to bugs like wasps, bees etc. What people may not realize, though, is that being blind can add a further dimension to this fear, making it harder to cope with and more severe in nature.
Sometimes, coping with insects when you’re blind is no more difficult than it would be for a sighted person: as you’re lying in bed, drifting off, the insidious whine snaps you back to alertness. Then, you search vainly for the mosquito, intent upon murdering the insolent little nasty before sleep is possible. Turning on the light doesn’t help; the mosquito usually vanishes until darkness returns. Mosquitoes are easy enough for me to kill in any case; they’re usually too stupid or too slow to escape a swat once they’ve landed. (I’m not yet at an emotional point where I’m fully capable of letting mosquitoes get near enough to land on me at all, but I’m working on it.)
Unfortunately, it’s another matter altogether where bees, wasps, hornets, and other bugs are concerned. There are generally several tasks that blindness makes more challenging. First, you have to identify the insect. What are you dealing with? Is it a mellow bumblebee, high on nectar and enjoying life? Is it a slightly more threatening honeybee, looking for a snack but not unwilling to attack if frightened? Or is it—horror of horrors—an evil little wasp, just waiting to launch its vile assault?
Second, where is it? Sometimes, insects that make especially loud noise can seem closer than they actually are. Is the bug near enough that any sudden movement will disturb it, or is it far enough away that escape is possible? And do you dare find out?
Third, how should you go about eliminating the threat? I’m as big a bleeding heart as anyone I know, so my first instinct is usually to put a harmless spider or lady bug outside rather than ending its little wee life. I’m not near as philosophical when it comes to creatures that buzz, however. My fear of insects is sometimes so acute that the mere sound of an insect—even a house fly—will set me so on edge that most thought processes simply stop. I want to either escape, or see the creepy-crawly slaughtered (hopefully by someone who isn’t me).
I’m not alone, either. Alicia tells me that she finds the mere idea of being trapped in an enclosed space with an unidentified insect terrifying in itself. If there’s an insect in her house, she’ll avoid it rather than trying to kill it or put it out. Even worse, she hates the knowledge that she may not know a bug is around until it crawls on her, at which point she has no warning, no sense of what the bug might be, and virtually no time to evade it.
Once, while alone in a car, I noticed that there was an awful lot of buzzing going on directly behind my head, right against the back window. I knew there had to be at least four or five different insects there, but I wasn’t entirely sure what they might be. They sounded like they could be flies, but they also could be bees or wasps for all I knew. Positively quaking with fear, I hunched down, put my head between my knees, and stayed curled like that until my friend turned up. “Oh my God!” he exclaimed, opening the car door, “There are about six bumble bees in here!”. … I still shudder at the thought.
I’ve been by turns laughed at, scoffed at, sympathized with, and coddled because of my all-consuming fear of big buzzy things. While a lot of the fear is quite normal and part of being human, some of it is directly related to being blind, and I wanted people to understand that feeling as much as possible. It starts to make a tad more sense once you step into my shoes for a moment. Keeping in mind that not all blind people react this way (my boyfriend, for instance, feels little more than irritation with most bugs), I beg my readers to cut me some slack when it comes to things that go buzz in the night.