Uninvited House Guest

There are several benefits to winter. The winter wonder that is the first snow fall… the season of settling down, of snuggling under blankets and sipping hot tea… the return to domestic peace.  These all mark the winter season of slowing down and rebuilding yourself.
Even the crisp beauty of the bare woods and brilliantly clear skies have their appeal during the deepest of our winter season. Now as a Philadelphian, we don’t suffer the most brutal or challenging of winters, but we do get a few difficult storms every now and then.
But without a doubt, the BEST part of winter is the complete absence of mosquitoes. I think we all can agree on this.  It’s normal and kinda nice to have a reduction of the insect population during winter. Walks are insect free, trails lack the spider-strings-across-the-forehead experiences, and so on.
It is normal to NOT have wildly exotic insects showing up in your house waving at you in the deep cold of February. It is also not normal to have any type of insect survive my house of murderous fur babies.
So you can imagine my utter denial when first thing in the morning I was face to face with an unknown insect species crawling around my bathroom.
First: Ew. Where did this thing come from?
Second:  WHAT IS THAT THING?  I’m not exactly a bug expert by any stretch of the imagination. But I can identify enough bugs to know what it was NOT.  And it was NOT any type of bug I have ever seen before. In my life.
Also. In my bathroom?!  IN FEBRUARY?
I looked around seeking an explanation.  There were no explanations by this bizarre experience.
Faced with this extremely odd situation I did what any 21st century woman would do: I blinked at it repeatedly in denial.  Was it a dust bunny? Weirdly shaped toy?  Then it moved and I blinked again… still in denial. I look at my two cats who are staring at me in confusion because they know my morning routine doesn’t involve standing around blinking dumbfoundedly.
They don’t seem to notice or care about the extremely and very uninvited house guest. So NOW I do what any 21st century woman with resources would do: I downloaded an insect identifying app on my phone and took a photograph of the strange bug.
The app says it is a western conifer seed bug.
I look again. Yeah, he matches that photo identically, including those funky hind legs with the really pronounced calf muscles. (I don’t speak insect… you’ll know what I mean when you look at it.). I check again.. WESTERN conifer seed bug. I look at the bug again… longer body, not a stink bug… funky back legs.. yeah. It’s the same bug. But…. Western?
Now it should be understood that if I was actually awake and not just playing at being awake.. I would have had a clearer mind and focused on the most important question at this moment.. well, we’ll get there together my friends.
So instead I became distracted by the regional description. Is that “western” as in the USA is located ‘west’ of China? Or is that “western” as in this bug should be in California?  Accordingly to this app, it’s supposed to be west of the Rockies.  I’m definitely not west of the Rockies…. so… I go back to searching for insect photos.
I look at another photo and check out my house guest again, trying to make sure I accurately identify it so that whatever I’m about to do next won’t result in my getting stung, bit, or stunk. Better to know what I’m dealing with. So far, it is a calm insert rather comfortably hanging out and letting me take photos of it. #BugSelfies
After scrubbing the sleep from my eyes and squinting repeatedly, I’m convinced I’ve correctly identified my house guest. I definitely have a western conifer seed bug in my house – and according to the app – this guy is very lost.  The website says they’re invading the New England states, so maybe we need to update the site to include Mid-Atlantic states, too.
There are mentions that this bug is often confused for a kissing bug, or the stink bug. It is neither of these things. I spend a solid two minutes carefully studying the insect’s body shape, length, and legs.  It sits there patiently.  My cats are indignant that this new morning routine is delaying their breakfast. And I will later reflect on my ability to be easily distracted by shiny new things.
With all my reading and research, you know what I didn’t research? Does it fly?
Yeah. I didn’t research that while standing in my bathroom at 5am wearing only my nightshirt. I missed that extremely critical step.
So somewhere between glancing at this bug and the photos on my phone, it performed the best disappearing act I’ve ever seen. Probably due to the screaming and flailing. In less than a blink of an eye, it simply vanished. Or escaped with it’s life. I guess it depends on how you look at the situation.
My bathroom isn’t that complex. It’s all tile and monochromatic.  There is no where this bug could have gone that I couldn’t have spotted it instantly… except that it was completely gone and I couldn’t find it anywhere.  The moment my eyes were off of it were nearly instant – less than a second – and it was completely gone. If it had flown somewhere, I would have been able to see it flying away.  Where did it go? OMG WHERE DID IT GO?
I look at my cats to give me a clue. Moving insects are their favorite toys. But they are all staring at me intently and with obvious curiosity. They didn’t see it.
Or did they?
For no reason at all I’m absolutely convinced it is in my hair.  There’s no logical reason for this belief other than that’s the LAST place I want it to be and therefore it will be there. And my pet panthers are look RIGHT AT ME.
I have a panic-shower and now I’m the cleanest human on the planet. I’m in the shower under scalding water, scrubbing several layers of skin off of my entire body and violently scrubbing my hair. Naturally there is no bug. I mean, we knew that right? I was just succumbing to my irrational fears.
But you know what my brain is screaming… “it’s still in your hair…”
Fine. I blow dry my hair. On Hot. On High. It is impossible for anything to survive THAT process.  My hair barely survives that process.  Obviously there’s nothing in my hair so I can rela….
Brain: “it is definitely in your hair.”
Fine. I flat iron my hair. There. Impossible for anything….
Brain: “Nope. It’s in your hair… “
I give up trying to reason with my irrational fears, so I go about my normal routine and leave for work. But I spend the entire day still convinced that this bug is in my hair. Reason isn’t working here, I’m just irrationally living out my fears. And every strand of hair that touched my shoulder or neck caused a full body clench. It’s been a tough day.
Now I am home. And I just spent a few hours on a great Insect Expedition and Hunt.  Nothing. There is zero evidence this bug is still in my house, but my rational brain is reminding me that these bugs like warm, cozy homes and obviously it isn’t going to leave on it’s own accord. I need to evict it!
My irrational brain is convinced it is living in my pillows. Of course I checked and changed the pillow cases and nothing is there. But guess what my brain keeps telling me now?  “It’s in pillows.”
::sigh:: It is going to be a long night, too.
So. This is #MyNormalNow.
Let’s add Western Conifer Seed bugs to my new list of things I don’t want living with me.  And I’m looking at my cats to perform a solid eviction notice as soon as he shows up again.  They, on the other hand, are having good fun running into the pillow cases (aka, soft caves of fun!) and ignoring my irrational fears.
Here’s a photo of my cat not caring about my anxiety and enjoying a good cat-attack on his grooming brush and NOT attacking the uninvited hours guest.
2021 January update
I re-discovered this post and realized the following:
1) the insect never showed up again
2) I never found evidence of it’s demise
3) I learned they can travel inside via bags and other grocery items which makes more sense then it ‘flying’ into my sealed, winter home. And I had been shopped the prior day