Evelyn Richardson

It's a draw in the battle between me and the bugs. The latest invasion of beetles, that we loosely call ladybugs, began before Christmas. For every one that I destroy, another egg hatches in a hidden crevice and flies out to take its place.

Some days I counsel myself to ignore them, but my weak pledge doesn't last long. I'm always looking up, down and all around.

Biggest of my battle arms is the vacuum cleaner. I've outfitted it with an extension nozzle crafted from sections of an old machine added to its own that reaches the ceiling. A long-handle broom, wet paper towels and a damp sponge round out my attack equipment.

I curb my natural impulse to step on them because squashing releases bodily fluid with its objectionable smell and a yellow dye that leaves a spot.

That's another thing -- their ingenious design makes them difficult to catch. I rarely try it barehanded because they stink and I have to wash my hands. It's nearly impossible to pick them up anyway because there's no way to grip their rounded back. Their multiple little legs allow them to scurry fast, and they can fly, too!

They like the sink and wash basins, and I attempt disposal of those by washing them down the drain. Their tiny feet grip the surface as suction cups and it often takes a lot of water to get them into the drain. Then I must waste even more water to force them far down or they will crawl right back up.

We are told that the beetles are basically harmless to humans; they are just instinctively finding a warm place to hole up for a spell. However, the thought of one crawling in my ear at night raises fear.

They are a nuisance, to say the least. I find them folded with the towels, under cushions, decorating lamp shades and in the corner of drawers.

If I leave a glass of water sitting on the counter, a beetle will likely be running around the rim when I come back. I feel sure that I have unknowingly eaten several concealed in a forkful of food.

The truth of the matter is, my ego is severely damaged because I cannot get the upper hand. Therefore I keep on fighting. There's a crick in my neck from constantly surveying the scene.