Life imitates fiction.

By Jim White: Associate Director, Land and Biodiversity

I have been putting off writing this blog entry for about a month. In fact I still am not sure that the following story is “blog worthy” but what the heck – here goes…

It was a beautiful sunny day and I was taking a blissful ride on my motorbike. As I cruised down Brackenville Road I was surprised when I was struck by an insect on the side of my face. Actually, insect strikes are a fairly common occurrence and this one didn’t feel that bad because I was only going 25 mph. However, instead of bouncing off my face as I expected, this bug crawled under my helmet and then into my right ear. I couldn’t stop immediately, but I was close to the Ashland Nature Center and decided to pull in and assess my situation. As I pulled up the driveway I saw Joe Sebastiani walking toward me. Much to his dismay I asked Joe to look into my ear to see if he could see the intruder. Joe made a feeble attempt and informed me he saw nothing.
So I went to my desk figuring that the little creature would soon decide to crawl out and go about its business. But after twenty minutes of trying to identify the bug just by feeling its little legs scratching annoyingly deep inside my ear, I decided to go home and lay down and let gravity assist in the exit. Once I was lying down I had plenty of time to ponder my situation. I started to recall an episode from one of my favorite TV shows of my youth: Rod Sterling’s “Night Gallery”. Some of you might remember the episode erroneously called “The Caterpillar”. The unlucky protagonist has a small insect-like creature (which they call an “earwig”), crawl into his ear. The creature then burrows through his ear and into his brain, causing a slow slide into insanity. Well, just when I was amusing myself with the coincidence, my intruder started to move with more vigor and instead of crawling out it decided to go deeper, finally crawling on my ear drum. This is when I started to think that maybe there was some truth to the TV story.
Luckily, after several very painful minutes, my ento-friend finally decided to make for the daylight and crawl out of my ear. Not only was I relieved physically, I was also finally able to identify the creature. It was not an “earwig” but instead an almost inch-long Rove Beetle (family Staphylinidae). Well, for me that explained why the creature had crawled into my ear canal instead of just flying away. Rove Beetles have a natural ability and affinity to crawl into tight places: they typically are found in and under dead animals where they feed on fly maggots, and they enter carcasses through openings in the skin. As I believe there were no maggots in my ear for it to feed on, I would guess that my visitor was “glad’ to be free. I know I was sure glad to see him go.

Happily, I have suffered no lasting ill effects from the experience, but if you recall the end of the TV story — only time will tell. You see, in the TV story, although the invading insect was removed, it was discovered that it was a female and had laid eggs in the poor fellow’s brain. Do-do-do-doo, Do-do-do-doo! 

Jim on bike photo6
Simulation by Gregory White
Rove Beetle

Rove Beetle

4 thoughts on “Life imitates fiction.”

  1. Great story, Jim! Actually, Amy told us the story the day it happened, as she rushed home to inspect your ear, but I loved your parallel to Rod Serling’s story. Good luck!


  2. Jim, I think I’m happier having been bitten by an eensy-weensy tick than what happened to you! Glad it decided to crawl out on its own…. Wendy

  3. Phyllis Schmidt

    EWWWW!!!! I don’t think I would have patiently waited for the bug to exit. I’d have gone directly to the nearest medical clinic to have it removed. If it did lay eggs, do you think you’ll be compitent enough to write back and tell us what is happening? (hee hee)


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