Arrow-right Camera
News >  Spokane

Doug Clark: Bug Samaritan takes a stand

Doug Clark
Doug Clark
Note: an incomplete version of Doug’s column appeared in print on May 10; the column has been restored to its full length.

Message to the Washington Department of Agriculture:

You can have my bug sprayer when you pry my cold, dead fingers off of the handle.

That may sound a little extreme.

But as you’ll soon see, there comes a time when an amateur insect exterminator has to stand up for his constitutional right to kill box elder bugs.

Before I tell you how I ran afoul of the DOA and something called the “Washington Pesticide Application Act,” let me take you back to a column from two weeks ago.

You may recall that I tried to perform a good deed by re-spraying poison on Pat Day’s box elder bug-infested abode.

The original spray job took place two years earlier, when Day was in the throes of a box elder invasion. Health issues prevent the woman from engaging in such dirty work so I volunteered to be Day’s insect hit man.

I feel her pain. For years the outside of my own home was a destination resort for these almond-shaped, red-and-brown freeloaders.

The squatters would congregate by the thousands, lazing in the sun and having indiscriminate and unprotected (as far as I could tell) sex.

Only the Secret Service is hornier.

Professional exterminators turned me down. Their poisons would wipe out the bugs, they said. But new ones would soon replace the dead.

That’s the thing about box elder bugs. Once they target you they’re more relentless than a family member with an Amway business.

Then an Internet search for answers led me to Buggslayer.

The difference with this product is that it dries into zillions of microscopic death crystals that last for months and months.

Bugs keep coming.

Bugs keep croaking.

Day’s home is a good example. Her infestation* was put down like Ol’ Yeller for two years after my buddy, Scott Cooper, and I opened fire with that first batch of doom.

(*By infestation I mean the poor lady’s home wasn’t just buggy, it was Spokane Police Guild buggy.)

Nothing lasts forever, of course.

Well, nothing except maybe those furniture store blowout sales.

The point is that Day called to say the winged enemy was back.

No problem, said I. Be right down.

If you read the column you know I failed because …

1. My spray bottle, corroded from lack of cleaning and neglect, drooled Buggslayer onto my hand.

2. I didn’t take Cooper.

3. Two copulating box elder bugs flew down my shirt.

4. I didn’t take Cooper.

I left Day’s house a beaten man, but also vowing to reprise “Doug vs. Bug” on another day.

My telling of this tale produced two fascinating phone calls.

One call was from a sensitive woman who was disturbed by my professed love for killing box elder bugs.

“You shouldn’t love murdering anything,” she scolded. “That’s not healthy mentally.”

It’s so sweet that she’s worried about my mental well-being. Unfortunately, as my editors will attest, that circus blew out of town years ago.

The other phone call was from R. Scott Nielsen, area manager for the state Department of Agriculture.

He suggested that spraying Day’s home without being bonded or licensed might be a violation of that aforementioned pesticide application act.

Good grief. Let me say this again.

Helping Day out was not business. It was a good deed done free of charge and by her permission.

I arranged to meet Nielsen at a South Hill coffee shop. He seemed like really nice guy even after handing me a copy of the RCW, which contained some alarming language such as:

“Nematocide means any substance or mixture of substances intended to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate nematodes.”

Good to know.

I thanked Nielsen for his concern and invited him to join me in the rogue spraying of Day’s box elder bugs.

He cheerfully declined. Coward.

In the several minutes I’ve spent going over the rules, I’m quite confident that this RCW stuff applies to people who conduct a commercial enterprise and NOT to incompetent do-gooders like me.

Of course, I could be wrong.

In which case: Bring it on, suckers!

Because on Tuesday afternoon Cooper and I once again gave the Day estate the Buggslayer blast.

This will only upset that woman who called. But sending those creepy-crawlies to the Great Buggy Beyond makes me all warm and squishy inside.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

Top stories in Spokane

Ethics Commission: Mayor David Condon honest in handling of Frank Straub questions

UPDATED: 6:25 p.m.

updated  The final complaint targeting Mayor David Condon for his handling of the ouster of former Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub was unanimously dismissed by the city’s Ethics Commission on Wednesday, who said the complaint was fueled by opinions, not facts or evidence presented by former City Council President Joe Shogan.