Dispatches | April 05, 2009

As study-dwellers, we spend a lot of time in spaces surrounded by paper. Our desktops, shelves, armrests, and pretty much every vertical surface is piled high with magazines, stacks of ungraded student papers, books, lists, diagrams . . . and that’s okay. We’re comfortable here.

But so are bugs. Thus, there are really only two kinds of study-dweller: those who have lifted a pile of paper to reveal a hairy spider the size of a work glove crouching underneath, and those who will. That’s why I recommend the Backyard Safari Bug Vacuum, a fierce green pistol that can suck all but the most enormous spiders right off the rug, and can also, I discovered, suck a bee right out of the air.

I know it can do these things because I took this baby out looking for bugs. That’s the kind of fearlessness the bug vac bestows. Maybe that courage derives from its pistol shape, which should give anti-gun activists every cause for alarm. One moment, I am terrified of stinging insects to the point of fleeing a room a wasp has entered; the next, with a finger on the smooth, plastic trigger, I am taking it to their turf, gunning for them.

When pulled, the trigger activates the surprisingly strong vacuum. Bugs unlucky enough to find themselves staring down the barrel with their multiple eyes are vacuumed into a detachable examination capsule that can be sealed with a knob on the side, allowing for catch-and-release bug removal. This is actually what I like most about the bug vac. I don’t like bugs, and don’t altogether mind killing them, but it’s gross when the wall where a bug once scurried looks like someone lobbed a used soup ladle at it. Plus, I’m soft enough that I would take a merciful option if one presented itself, which it did, at Christmas, in bug vacuum form. (Thanks, Mom)

A few tips before you set out on your office bug safari:

Replace the batteries. The Backyard Safari Bug Vacuum, found in the toy department at Wal-Mart, comes in a package labeled “try me,” with an arrow that points to the exposed trigger. At least open it up and test the batteries. You do not want to face off with a silverfish on half-juice, my friend.

The bug vac comes with a choice of two barrels to use — one with a narrow end and one with a round end. I pack the round-ended one, but that’s just how I roll.

It is wise to put the examination capsule in the icebox for a few minutes before releasing the bug into the wild or the toilet. The cold will immobilize the bug and eliminate the chance it will seek vengeance on you as you dispose of it.

The sole bad reviews I found for the bug vac when I researched it last fall were from parents whose children used it to amass captive insect stockpiles that they could release at once into their siblings’ rooms. Although this may sound like an awesome prank, or, if you’re Bill Gates, a forceful way to punctuate a statement about malaria prevention, it’s kind of a jerk move. It might get you grounded.