Phoenix-Rising Fungus Gnats

It all started when I brought some plants inside.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY HANNAH ENGLAND


Unannounced, the condominium association decided to paint the place—much obliged, but that meant my patio plants had to be put inside. As I watered, the soil did crawl with sudden infestation. I read in a book that overwatering will lead to fungus gnat copulation. What I had forgotten to water outside once inside got overt attention.

So I let them dry out. Holding back their new obsession was my next big mistake. The tiny things, robbed of moisture, began to fly all about. They got in my face. They napped on the couch. Another book, that I read too late, noted that when their habitat dries out, they leave it in search of another wet space.

Oh, yes, they kept searching and flying about, until they found refuge in the water spout, pestering me as I washed my hands, brushed my teeth, opened my mouth. Hand-prints on the mirror could not be counted as notches in my belt. There were way too many missed attempts.

It seems I must learn to live with these creatures torn from their native land.

I learned to clap my hands and learned to rub them together. This kept their tiny bodies from playing Houdini, hiding in the crevices of my fingers, then flying right out. But even when I got one good, it seemed that its remnants, when rinsed off in the sink, rose from the dead—instant reincarnation—to play out its fate again. Either they are spiritual beings, or I now had a hatchery in my pipes. Brilliant as they are, it will never dry out, a constant supply of life. As I twist on the water to wash one down, I disrupt another one’s home. The longer I let the water run, the more I force out—to taunt me, to tell me this battle may never be won. By the owner of the place, that is.

Giving up on the books, I think instead like nature, drawing in my prey with great wisdom and experience, tempting the mighty gnat to an oasis in the desert I created just for them. OK, it was a fluke…I’d left a glass of water in the sink, and in their greediness many drowned. So this became my pesticide-free trap, setting tall glasses out. As they dipped in for drinking, they filled to gorging, then, too heavy to fly above the rim, they drowned.

Floating bodies filled me triumphant and prideful with glee. But we all know what pride does precede. Soon I noticed some clung to the edges, sipped in spurts, then flew out super-sized to create a new genetic strain, beyond-the-less-fit floating gnats. Microevolution at its best, or its worst, depending on which side of the half-glass you sip from. This species changed in hours, not millions of years, to a brilliant super-gnat right inside my house. When I removed the water traps, they reverted back to the usual miniature scavengers—quick to avoid my hand-smashing wrath.

I gave up my green bias and called pest control. They said the substance needed to destroy this species was a pesticide that could not be sprayed inside. Then my consultants suggested a warm soapy solution. It seemed simple enough and more to my healthy-living choosing. While the bugs did avoid the bubble bath solution, the plant life itself began to wilt. Again, instant evolution had its say, creating a new breed of bugs, choosing to bathe on their own—in the toilet, in the tub and the shower, and for old times’ sake, in my water glass at night (remnants of ancestral DNA still hiding in their makeup).

It seemed the most effective remedy, not to eliminate, but to somewhat keep up with my housemates, was the always stylish, only-available-in-one-color, lovely, and decorative flypaper, dangling from various tables and lampshades.

Other guests, people guests, fascinated me even more. Quite polite, they pretend not to notice the sticky spirals of amber décor covered with my dead combatants. But when those same gnats flew up their noses, politeness—and they—flew out the door!

With the condominiums painted and the plants back outside, you’d think my battle was done. But not so, with water so easy to come by inside. It seems I must learn to live with these creatures torn from their native land. So I start to philosophize, seek a lesson to apply to my life. I’ll identify with the gnats, learn from their will to survive and ability to overcome the challenges they face.

I, too, will rise again each day, after dying to pain, my tears watering emotions and draining out shattered dreams. I am woman, I am gnat, we are the world, we are the children. Yes, my winged friends, we are one! Out of the ashes, dust and toxic blood, I, too, will survive, even when battered by life’s pressures and a body that rebels. It is through persistence and a will to live that I will survive, even when it appears no sustenance remains.

Like a gnat that feeds upon fungus, I am a phoenix rising: bird, butterfly, with a song to sing, something to say that cannot be denied. We shall learn to live and love side by side, the gnats and I. Annoying as they may be to me, we will rise together out of the ashes, humans and gnats transforming, adjusting to new environments, creating life from what seemed old and dead. Phoenix-rising fungus gnats, you are me, I am you. We are truly one!

Just kidding. I’ll kill the loathsome things yet.


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