Shortly after we added a box turtle to our family this past January, my husband came home from the pet store with a triumphant smile on his face. He had discovered the protein-filled feeding marvel known as . . . SUPERWORMS! Unlike mealworms and waxworms, these little critters aren’t supposed to morph into beetles, which our dear Ramesses (yes, my five-year-old named him and our anole, Moses, after the lead characters from The Ten Commandments) would not be able to digest.
So, flash forward to a playdate with three little girls in my house the first week of March. Things seemed largely under control, so I called my son’s neurologist to ask a few questions before an upcoming trip. No sooner had I gotten his nurse on the phone, however, when I heard girlish screaming echoing from my daughter’s room. Phone in hand, I sprinted up the stairs and saw half a dozen superworms tunneling through the carpet at warp speed. (For the record, they’re not exactly pokey after making a jail break.) The following is a brief synopsis of the dialogue that ensued:
Me: Oh, my God! There are worms everywhere! (Keep in mind that this is a frigid, blustery March morning, so the thought of worms crawling to and fro might seem a tad insane to an outsider like, oh, well for example’s sake, the neurologist’s nurse.)
Me: There are worms! (To Maria and her comrades) How did this happen?
Nurse: Is everything okay?
Me: Yes–it’s just that . . . it’s not important. I’ll call you back. Sorry. (Click)
After questioning the young ladies who I assumed were culprits behind the great escape, I caught what I hoped were all of the superworms. Maria swore that she hadn’t lifted the lid to the plastic container that they call home, but I scoffed at her declarations of innocence. Don’t you just love when you end up having to eat your words in front of your kids?
A few days later, my husband called me into Maria’s room to show me that the turtle’s equivalent of prime rib had been chewing through their clearly less-than-sturdy habitat. God knows I had been showering the worms with enough lettuce for snack food, but apparently they had to try their jaws out on plastic. Slightly red-faced, I apologized to my daughter for having doubted her, moved the creepy-crawlies into a more reliable plastic bug box, and hoped that was the end of the superworm saga. Unfortunately, I was proven wrong yet again . . . .
Over the past few weeks, I have discovered (thanks to Maria’s squealing) that I didn’t capture all of the lucky few who nibbled their way to liberty. In fact, three had enjoyed enough time on the run that they did what the pet store had promised they wouldn’t do: They morphed into big, black beetles. Now, I don’t like killing any living thing. Heck, I even let spiders and thousand-leggers run loose in the basement because I run with the philosophy that they’re munching on all the other unwanted insects who make their way in from the crawlspace.
Unfortunately, however, I was compelled (upon locating the first transformer) to do an extremely thorough vacuuming job. My excuse for the attempted superworm slaughter? I had visions of a certain five-year-old leaping into my bed at night, completely hysterical that something had inched its way up her pajamas. My success rate with the Hoover? All I can say is that Saint Francis must have been shining his light on the insect world that day because I found no victims to suck up with the hose. And I will give myself snaps for relocating our trio of beetles to the bug box.
Lessons learned from this story? A). Superworms CAN and DO morph; B). Trust your daughter’s word over the automatic assumption that any insect that doesn’t sting or bite is inherently innocent; and C). Always have a bug box handy because you never know what you’ll find burrowing through the carpet. Oh, and don’t forget to throw some lettuce in there occasionally. The bug box, that is–not the carpet.
–Katie Marsico has written for Tails since 1999. In addition to contributing feature stories to the magazine, she now will write a weekly blog post for Tattle Tails, giving us a glimpse into her often funny and always chaotic life as mother, pet guardian, and writer.