Tom Turpin
Professor of
Purdue University


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Flies in the face of fashion

What's Buggin You Now?





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Insects in Christmas Songs

It happens this time every year. People take some of the traditional Christmas songs and rewrite them. One of the favorites for this purpose is the "Twelve Days of Christmas." I don't know how many versions of that song I've heard. 

I will admit that I am guilty of having injected insects into those dozen days preceding Christmas. My insect version included the following: a psyllid in a pear tree, two tortoise beetles, three body lice, four calling moths, five sprayer cans, six grubs a'digging, seven flies a' flying, eight ants a'milking, nine mayflies dancing, 10 locusts leaping, 11 crickets chirping and 12 cicadas drumming." OK, I admit it; the "Twelve Bugs of Christmas" just isn't as good as the original with all of those geese, lords and ladies!

"Jingle Bells" has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs. Imagine how excited I was to see a children's book by David Carter entitled, "Jingle Bugs." With all due respect to the author, the bugs aren't exactly insects. The "bugs" have big eyes and antennae, but that is about the extent of the insect characteristics. Carter has included his bugs in a number of pop-up books for kids.

Carter's bug books also include "The 12 Bugs of Christmas." This is a counting book with such bugs as snowflake bugs, yuletide bugs a-yodeling and nimble bugs a nibbling. The series also includes "Love Bugs" for Valentine's Day, "Stinky Bugs" and "Bed Bugs," among more than 20 bug titles. I guess there is a market for pop-up bug books!

Not only do the words of Christmas songs get modified for the holiday season, but even the singers can sometimes be a bit nontraditional. Who can forget that chorus of yelping canines barking out their version of "Jingle Bells?" I don't know about you, but wouldn't "Muskrat Ramble," "Muskrat Love," "Puppy Love" or "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?" be more appropriate for a group of flea-bitten mutts than "Jingle Bells?"

Speaking of animals singing. Who could forget Alvin, Simon and Theodore? Created by David Sevelle, that infamous trio of chipmunks rose to pop music fame in 1962 with a Christmas classic, "The Chipmunk Song." Of course, like any singing group, the chipmunks did all the famous Christmas songs on their "Greatest Christmas Hits" album. They're all there: "Here Comes Santa Claus," "Deck the Halls," "White Christmas" and "Frosty the Snowman." With apologies to the Chipmunks, I don't think their squirrelly sounds measure up to the Christmas crooning of Bing Crosby and Gene Autry.

But leave it to Bob Rivers to put those chipmunks in their place. River's "Twisted Christmas" album is appropriately named. The album includes a title that warms the cockles of many hearts after hearing Alvin, Theodore and Simon do their version of a favorite Christmas song. It's at such times that "Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire" seems like an appropriate action to take! Although in the spirit of the season, maybe we should cut those fuzzy little mammals some Christmas slack. Chestnuts, I'm told, are a decent snack. But chipmunks lightly toasted -- I'm not sure how they would taste.

If you are up to roasting something in the fireplace, let me suggest an insect or two. Even as the Christmas season rolls around, some insects still linger in our homes. While most insects are tucked snug in their beds for a long winter's nap, those pesky Asian lady beetles still manage to bug us. 

So, how about putting these insects to good use during the holiday season? Instead of chestnuts or chipmunks, we could have "lady beetles roasting on an open fire." Not only could we eliminate of a few of the pesky insects, but it would be a joyful occasion as we do celebrate the season.



Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox