My Brog.

”When you catch insects, how do you do it?”

It was a little after 11 PM on a Thursday night. Smallville had been excellent, but has a history of strong season premieres and season finales with filler in between. We'll see how the rest of the season plays out. Supernatural got off to a powerful start as well, and when I was done with all the drama I watched the comedies I had taped, My Name is Earl and The Office. It had been an enjoyable night of television, and finally was time for me to settle down in front of my computer and start writing.

”Can I borrow your camera?”

My mom opened the door to my room, now asking a different question from the one issued from the hallway. It was clear she wasn't going to be easily dismissed, and that I wouldn't be getting any writing done. She explained that while doing laundry, she'd encountered a large jumping insect unlike anything she'd seen before, and trapped it in the basement inside a plastic muffin container. Before killing it, she thought I should take some pictures.

For the most part I exercise a “catch and release” rule with bugs who wander into the house. Anything particularly nasty looking, or too close to my personal space dies instantly. When I got the batteries in my camera and followed my mother downstairs, horror wrestled with scientific curiosity. There on the floor was the muffin container, fully open with both halves face down. Inside one half was something I thought was a small frog, about the size of a quarter. Closer inspection revealed long antennae wiggling about, perhaps two inches in length. The brown body had black stripes, and its large reptilian haunches were punctuated by more segments. It was as though the thing's legs had legs.

“Nyaahh haaa aaahhh!!”

I flinched as the bug-frog leapt. The “Brog” was trapped of course, but the click of its body against the thin plastic separating us still startled me. Over my shoulder, from a safe distance, my mom handed me a piece of cardboard to slide under the first half of the container. If I could get our intruder to jump on it, I could slide it under, lift up the container and fold the other half over. Once it was secured, I could try to photograph it, though beads of water on the recently washed container would make it a challenge. I didn't want to find out how far it could leap if I lifted the lid to get a clear shot.

It was a fairly willing model, occasionally taking a droplet of water with the tip of an antenna, folding it back to its mouth and drinking. It was at once interesting and terrifying to watch. I was still aghast at the basic visuals, but couldn't bring myself to kill it when the photo session was over. My mom didn't want it in her garden where she might encounter it again, nor anywhere near the house. I'm not even sure how something that size got in, but she thought perhaps some flower cuttings she'd brought down the cellar had contained a hitchhiker.

Now nearly midnight, I carried the container at arm's length out into our yard, to the edge of our property. The porch light cast my own shadow long into the street, and I had to stand sideways to even see if my passenger was still with me. I set the container down on a hedge, flipped the lid open, and RAN. Hours later, I still have a mix of chills and phantom itches.

Had we done the right thing? Had I spared some rare and harmless species, or had I unleashed some bizarre mutant or alien into the local ecosystem? Whatever it was, it was no mere household pest. As I pored over pictures of insects on my computer, more chills and itches enveloped me. No roach fit the description, eliminating at least one fear. Maybe it was a genetic hybrid of a frog and a cricket or a grasshopper after all. Somehow, I eventually found photos of a Camel Cricket, and the following key pieces of information:

”Hump-backed large crickets with long antennae and very long legs. Wingless (and thus unable to chirp) up to about 25mm (1 inch) long. Able to jump several feet, which can be startling. Light tan to dark brown in color.”

“Habitat: Cool damp places - caves, rotten logs, under leaves or rocks. Will not reproduce indoors unless they find continuous dark, moist conditions.”

“Feed on leaf debris. In houses may chew on paper products, occasionally fabric.”

“If these occur in a house the best treatment is to remove them and their breeding habitat - cool moist dark places such as piles of logs or boards in basements. A clean dry home will not be a welcoming place for these guys. Although they are scary-looking they are basically harmless to humans, except perhaps for minor damage to stored items, and are easily discouraged by eliminating the dark damp habitat they prefer.”

(Emphasis added)

And so, I had a new topic to write about, phantom sensations prolonged as I researched it. It was nasty looking enough that our first instinct should have been to destroy it, but it was so unique that we stayed its execution long enough to make what I believe was the right call. Faced with the same scenario, would you do the same? Check out the following photos and video, and judge for yourselves....


Blogger Rey said...

I would've killed it with no compunction. Probably would've killed it if it was in my garage and near by. Also if it was right outside my door. If it's that close to the house then it could come in. If it could come in it could breed. That's instant Bug Death Penalty in my Law.

9/29/2006 9:42 AM  
Blogger Scott Roche said...

My wife has an INTENSE phobia of this particular bug. When she was a kid one jumped into her face and since then she is terrified. We have a lot of them in our area and in our house I must kill any I see.

9/29/2006 9:59 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow said...

Saute that bad boy in garlic butter, with a little chopped cilantro.

Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to finish.

Garnish with chives.

In the words of Alton Brown, "That's good eats."

9/29/2006 3:31 PM  
Blogger Kev said...

We've got those around here.
The first time I saw one was when I was before I was married, still living with my parents, and just the day before had watched Aliens for probably the gazillionth time.
Then I saw this creature hanging on the curtain in the living room.
Now remember, I hate bugs to begin with - but ugly bugs that leap about with no rhyme or reason and look like tiny versions of the adult form of the xenomorph from Aliens?
I had nightmares for days.

Now that I'm used to them - I don't freak everytime Rubi calls me to come kill one.
Unless it jumps at me.
Then I might freak a bit.

9/29/2006 6:25 PM  
Blogger b13 said...

When my grandfather was living in Westchester he had these things all over his basement. It was one of those half basements that opened into a crawlspace under half the house which was filled with dirt. It freaked me out when I walked down there because these things were all over the place. They would be perfectly still and as you walked by it would seem like a section of wall moved....

Uhhh.. I just got chills.

9/29/2006 9:19 PM  

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