Here Come the Bugs of Summer

Now that summer is here, the bugs are back and for some kids, bugs bring terror.

My grandchildren are all afraid of spiders. Not monsters, ghosts or bears, just spiders. I wish they had my aversion to mice, bats and snakes, but they think mice are cute, bats are fascinating and snakes are just slithery. When they come to the cottage, I wait for the scream that inevitably is followed by one of them running inside because they’ve seen a spider. It’s always a humungous one too.

Every spring, I religiously sweep the walls inside the cottage for webs. Taking down spider webs outside is a weekly ritual and even with this diligence, there is still a raft of them, having propagated overnight, waiting to haunt my grandchildren. Having had a mouse scamper over my legs as I slept one summer night, I can understand a phobia about mice, but I confess I have little sympathy for a fear of innocent spiders.

Gail of Niagara-on-the-Lake has a grand-daughter who is terrified of bees and refuses to go outside if there’s even the shadow of a bee wing in the garden. “Chelsea’s fear is just all-consuming and irrational,” Gail says, “and as much as I reason with her and explain that bees won’t hurt her unless she provokes them, she cannot be cajoled into coming outside.”

Certainly, children who have a venom allergy need to be protected from stings from honeybees and yellow jackets. There’s often no way of knowing ahead of time that a child has an allergy, unless there’s a family history or an asthmatic condition, which may present a risk for a serious venom allergy. “We do keep an EpiPen handy, just in case,” Gail explains.

Everyone has a negative reaction in the form of swelling from bee stings as well as bites from black flies, mosquitoes and yes, even spiders. And children who are afraid may have been bitten, and this experience is the basis for their fear.

Talking grandchildren through their terrors is one tactic to use. To them, their fears are serious and we need to respect those feelings if we hope to have them receptive to our opinion and reassurance. Sympathy and understanding is what a grandchild has come to expect from a grandparent and sympathy also tends to diffuse anxiety. Find out where the fear originated and what experience she has had that may have fueled the terror. Take her to the library and check out books about bees or insects and find information on the internet to arm her with knowledge about the bugs in question, the risk of bites and stings and what the two of you can do to prevent being stung.

Gail learned the hard way that reasoning with her grand-daughter didn’t work. “I also insisted she stay outside with me, hoping that my presence would help comfort her and dispel her phobia,” she recalls. “But her terror just escalated. Finally we came inside and talked about it, and I found that when I sympathized and reassured her that I wouldn’t insist she go outside, she felt better.”

Once they read some books and watched a video about bees and learned that a bee’s wings beat 11,400 times a minute, her grand-daughter began to relax. Gail hopes this summer will be a new chapter for Chelsea and a more rational understanding of and healthy respect for bees.