I inadvertently took a month-long break from Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the longest I've gone without collecting Bells and bugs since before the game was released in late March. Upon my return to my island paradise, I discovered (to my abject horror) that it was infested with bugs that I vehemently despise. My escapist daydream is now my personalized nightmare.
I didn't visit what was once my tropical sanctuary from around the start of wedding season until right before swimming was introduced. I logged on once in mid-June to check out Pride Island, but didn't spend any time on my own island digging up fossils or picking weeds or checking in on my villagers. When I returned to Isola Sole on July 1, I got a stern talking to from each one of its residents - Judy thought I was shunning her, Hamlet was convinced I was avoiding his work-out challenge, and Grizzly… well, Grizzly's still being ignored because I want him to move away.
But my villagers' disappointment in my absence was nothing compared to the infestation of critters I now face every time I log on to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. My island belongs to the bugs now.
Close encounters of the bug kind
The influx of creepy crawlies is unique to islands in the Northern Hemisphere - the Southern Hemisphere didn't get any new bugs in July, and I consider them blessed for that absence. Cicadas, beetles, and mosquitoes are everywhere - rattling in trees, crawling on the ground, following me around to get a taste of my sweet, sweet blood.
The list of new bugs is expansive, and there are many different variants of the same breed buzzing about your islands - you've been warned. There are four different types of cicadas (Brown, Robust, Evening, and Giant), plus Cicada Shells, which can be found at the base of trees (we'll get to that later). The cicadas' shrill, siren-like sounds are made worse by the almost imperceptible vibrating that they do while resting on trees - insert Blathers' bug shudder here.
There are 13 different beetles now populating Northern Hemisphere islands and some - like the Miyama stag or the Cyclommatus stag - have gigantic pincers that gently flex as you draw near. If that didn't make your skin crawl enough, there are Walking Sticks and Walking Leaves disguised as, well, sticks and leaves.
Mosquitos have apparently been around since June but I managed to avoid the blood-sucking bastards until recently. I shook a tree and got simultaneously swarmed by wasps and bit by a lone mosquito that had been hovering near my head. Digusting.
If I hadn't already made this infinitely clear: I don't like bugs. I can't see where their scary compound eyes are looking so I can't get a read on where they're headed and I ultimately end up smacking into things while trying to flee them. There's few things that scare me more than when you're at an outdoor party chatting someone up and their eyes drift away from yours, glaze over, and linger on a spot somewhere near one of your ears - the telltale sign a bug is flitting about your head.
I grew up in the suburbs of Long Island, where the biggest bug I ever saw was an Asian longhorn beetle. In the late '90s, they came over in wood packing material and crates used to transport goods from East Asia and began decimating all the hardwood trees. We had to spray our backyard full of pesticides several summers in a row for the cheeky buggers. But all I can remember is the time I ran over one of them with my Barbie car and it crunched like a damn tortilla chip. And its insides? No, we won't discuss that.
Then there's the cicadas, which hold a special, dark space in my psyche. You see, my Uncle Joey is chaos incarnate; he'll do anything for a laugh or on a dare or just to get a rise out of you. It wasn't until I reloaded Animal Crossing after nearly a month away that I unearthed an Uncle Joey prank that I had buried in my subconscious. On a hot, summer day in '98, Uncle Joey saw me peeking at empty cicada husks in the backyard, which stay perched on trees after they've been shed like some sort of cicada Pompeii.
"You know what these are?" he asked as he pulled a cicada shell off the tree and held it between his tattooed fingers. "They're good snacks." Then he popped the shell in his mouth, crunched it between his teeth with gusto, and swallowed it down with a gulp worthy of a particularly gross Nickelodeon cartoon.
Now you can understand why I've considered burning my entire island to the ground and hoping the smoke will cleanse it as soon as I saw a cicada shell.