In the mid-1970s, there was a fad among jewelry stores to use tarantulas as security guards. Stores claimed it helped prevent thefts, although tarantulas aren't going to do much to stop a thief, besides looking scary. Rattlesnakes, I imagine, might work better.
To the Editor: A recent case seen in an emergency department of a large urban hospital may have finally settled the tormenting and age-old question concerning the best method of removing Periplaneta americana, the common cockroach, from the ear canal. Numerous methods have been described in the medical literature, the most popular of which appears to be placement of mineral oil in the canal and subsequent manual removal of the creature. More recently, lidocaine spray has been suggested as a more effective approach to this problem.
A patient recently presented with a cockroach in both ears. The history was otherwise noncontributory. We recognized immediately that fate had granted us the opportunity for an elegant comparative therapeutic trial. Having visions of a medical breakthrough assuredly worthy of subsequent publication in the Journal, we placed the time-tested mineral oil in one ear canal. The cockroach succumbed after a valiant but futile struggle, but its removal required much dexterity on the part of the house officer. In the opposite ear we sprayed 2 per cent lidocaine solution. The response was immediate; the roach exited the canal at a convulsive rate of speed and attempted to escape across the floor. A fleet-footed intern promptly applied an equally time-tested remedy and killed the creature using the simple crush method.
However humble the method, and despite our small study population, we think we have provided further evidence justifying the use of lidocaine for the treatment of a problem that has bugged mankind throughout recorded history.
K. O'Toole, M.D.
P.M. Paris, M.D.
R.D. Stewart, M.D.
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
To the Editor: The excitement was unbearable. "There's a girl with a bug in her ear!" the nurse had exclaimed. "Looks like a cockroach to me!" It was all we could do to keep from running to the patient's bedside. "Grab the lidocaine!" we shouted. This was the moment we had been waiting for. We had seen the reports, but did it really work?
As we burst into the room, we could see the young woman writhing from the combined sensations of movement and pain in her ear canal. One of us tok a look, confirming the nurse's diagnosis, while the other filled a 3-cc syringe with 2 percent lidocaine solution. With hurried anticipation we sprayed the drug briskly into the ear canal and quickly jumped back, fully expecting the beast to come hurtling forth at first contact with the noxious substance.
Nothing. "Increase the dosage," we shouted, filling a 10-cc syring. Still nothing. "Get that sucker outa my ear!" the patient screamed. What a brilliant idea! We grabbed a 2-mm metal suction tip and attached it to a wall suction apparatus with a negative pressure of 120 cm of water. Then we gently passed the tip into the ear canal, taking care not to occlude the canal and risk tympanic-membrane barotrauma. Shloop! "Got him!" we exulted. Sure enough, there he was, plastered to the suction tip like a fly to flypaper. After a repeat examination of the canal and a few drops of Cortisporin solution, the patient was on her way.
We recommend suction as a safe and efficacious method for removing insects from the ear canal when other methods fail.
Jonathan Warren, M.D.
Leo C. Rotell, M.D.
State University of New York
Health Science Center
The latest effort to convince everyone to eat insects comes from Ghent University in Belgium where researchers tested whether people could tell the difference between waffles, cookies, and cake made with butter, versus butter combined with fat from black soldier fly larvae.
They claimed that a mixture of 75% butter and 25% insect fat was undetectable to people. And, in some cases, even a 50/50 mix of butter/insect fat couldn’t be detected.
So they’re hopeful that bakery products made with insect butter may soon be on shelves. They note:
Products with insects such as insect burgers have not yet proved to be a great success. Bakery products with insect fat are more likely to be appreciated, because the insects are merely a form of fat substitute.
A living beetle, encased in a silver girdle, worn as a brooch. It was said to be “the rage of high-fashion Europe” in the early 1960s. With proper care, this living brooch supposedly would survive from two to six years.
I don't think a beetle would suffer by being worn as a brooch. Would it even care if it was being fed well? Even so, I'm guessing that living jewelry wouldn't go over well nowadays. Though that's no great loss to the world of fashion.
In 1933, Miss Winifred Mondeau found on her property a wasp’s nest that resembled a human face.
Newport News Daily Press - July 6, 1933
Some googling reveals that there’s a minor genre of wasp (and hornet) nests that resemble faces. The one below, for example, was found in the yard of Brenda Montgomery in 2017. Though it's not as good as the one from 1933.
Patent No. 1,591,905, granted to Oscar C. Williams of San Diego, CA in 1926, described this curious device.
It was a toy turtle. Its body was made of wood or aluminum, while the head, legs, and tail were made from lightweight cork. The user was supposed to insert several flies into the hollow body of the turtle. Their agitations once inside, as they sought to escape, would then cause the movable parts of the turtle to wag from side to side, as if the creature was alive.
I can see several drawbacks. First, you would have to catch some flies and maneuver them (alive) into the turtle. This was done by squeezing them through the leg hole. Handling a fly in this way seems like it could be a challenge.
And once in there, I imagine you'd have to wait until the flies died to get them back out. So, essentially, it was a fly torture device.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.