Saturday, August 13, 2011

A History of Pests

When I die, let it be said that I have a respect for insecta of all kinds. My respect is primarily reserved to those who observe the unspoken edict that they remain out of doors, never crossing the threshold of our home. I can identify the purpose and usefulness of some of these insects, and understand that they play a role in nature. There are a few that are anomalies, such as the mosquito, that serve no purpose other than to spread communicable diseases and itching welts- but I hear there are insects that are actually beneficial if not entirely innocuous. I reserve a hallowed place for one type of insect in my home, however. One that is not really an insect at all really, an arachnid. I leave the spiders to their peace so that they may aid me in my mission to eradicate the actually bothersome insects.
Before we moved here, my cousin Cathryne warned me that North Carolina was home to more insects than anywhere in the nation, some of them as large as birds. She learned this from a stint she spent in Chapel Hill. She claimed she could not even sit in the grass for fear of the many classes of insects that threatened to overtake her. I waived away her concerns, believing that she and I must be cut from a different cloth. She was right. In fact, depending on the time of day, you can hear a veritable roar of cicadas that quickly becomes background noise, part and parcel of living in the South.
Once said insects cross into my territory- into a carpeted, air-conditioned, civilized world-all bets are off.
For the most part, our home regularly only houses the human and feline species, but occasionally something else sneaks in. I can't really blame them- especially in August, but that doesn't change the fact that they are entirely unwelcome. 
I will now chronicle for you our history of pests in this home:
 Only twice since we moved here 4 years ago have I seen a cockroach- big, black 2-inch suckers that scurry and flee to the shelter of the underside of the couch or my sink drain. That's not bad for 4 years, but both of these incidences incited a near riot of one. I sat perched on my couch, which I quickly became afraid of, imagining it's many insidious and invisible predators that prey on dead skin cells and my peace of mind. Suddenly, I lived in a tainted world. All porous surfaces were suspect, and could I have afforded it, I would have hired a fumigator, ordered all new furniture and carpet, a Kirby cleaner, and a deep-cleaning team of specialists within the 5 minutes of sighting the cockroach. Alas, I was left to buy copious amounts of roach bait, clean compulsively and keep the name of an exterminator on hand should I sight another one. 
One of my cat's many faults is that they cannot eat without spilling cat food all over the floor. This may have something to do with the fact that all of Smeagle's tiny front cat teeth have fallen out, he has recently lost an incisor and a molar, and his remaining teeth are so plaque-encrusted it sometimes makes closing his mouth difficult. Nevertheless, they spill their food all over the floor, which sustains a large colony of the tiniest ants in the world who keep a steady track from the cat food to my window sill.
Once I discovered some very small larvae-looking things in the bottom of a rank laundry basket where damp clothes may have been collecting for longer than is advisable. Repulsed, I whisked them into a collection jar, and started my research, afraid for bed bugs. They turned out to be carpet beetles, which after my reading I was convinced would be the ruination of our home and family. I vacuumed religiously and kept better up on the laundry which were my only defenses against them.
I have seen and heard mice in my kitchen so many times I disregard it now. I've actually only sighted one once, but I am convinced that everything I hear from that vicinity is a mouse, hellbent on bringing my insanity to full fruition. As with the other pests I have battled, I go straight for the big guns. Had these mice been found in nature, I would smile at their small, cute natures and leave them to themselves. But once again, once they enter into my home, all I can think of is vanquishment at any cost. Mouse traps and carefully placed mouse poison. Incidentally, my cats are completely  useless against these pets. Never once have they caught a mouse, though they sometimes lay in wait, studying a corner of my kitchen which always makes me uneasy. Once, several years ago, Dobby caught a fly by one wing in her mouth, then eating it, earning her the nickname of 'Ninja Cat'. That has been the whole of their usefulness in their 7 1/2 years.
A few weeks ago, Timm came home from Scout camp and dumped his bag on the living room floor. Later that day, a small blue-tailed lizard was seen racing through the living room. This variety is often seen sunning on our front porch, making a hasty retreat as soon as you open the door. This was the first time I had seen a reptile in this home. Smeagle darted after it, causing Bella to sing his praises whenever possible to allay Timm's threats of turning him into 'Smeagle bacon'. I picked it up, it comically clamped down on my finger, and I released it outside. I blamed it on Timm's scout bag, but I'm really not so sure.
The next week, I was in the kitchen when Fiona came to me, wide-eyed saying: 'mama! There's a fwogda wiving woom!' (Or, 'Mama, there's a frog in the living room!') I chided her 2-year old imagination and moved to inspect. There, in close proximity to our dryer, was a frog, completely covered in lint. His eyeballs were so coated with it that he struggled to close his eyes and I had to thoroughly rinse him in the kitchen sink before returning him outside. I will admit, that one still mystifies me.
All of this evidence, collected, sounds horrifying. It makes me out to be a slovenly, unkempt and unsanitary person. That I might be, but our home is not. It's not perfect, but most of the time I like to think my house is cleaner than many others. As an example, I sweep my kitchen at least 3 times a day. This is in part because I have small children who eat like Cookie Monster, and because I cannot abide the feeling of crumbs underfoot. After the cockroach debacle, I further intensified my sweeping initiatives. My point is, I am not living in the deplorable conditions this evidence would suggest, and there is no need, at this time, to contact Child Protective Services.
And then. Then.
The whammy.


Jill said...

Oh my goodness, this has given me the heebie jeebies for sure! I cannot imagine letting spiders reside in my house just because they eat other bugs. I get the concept, but I hate them so much. I vacuumed 2 of them up tonight while doing my Saturday night clean up (we had Landon's birthday party) and sucked up many crumbs and some mosquitoes too. I'm fine with them living outside, but can't handle having them inside!!

Oh dear to lice!!!

michelle said...

THAT'S how you end the post?! That's a serious cliffhanger.

I laughed out loud multiple times while reading this post, so thanks for that. I'm dying over the mental image of the frog with lint-covered eyeballs...

paws said...


Molly Krauss Smith said...

I live in the land of GIANT cockroaches and completely agree with your rule: once they enter the confines of my home, they're toast!

Anonymous said...

I loved this post! I agree with everything! I am with Michelle-I am still giggling over the frog. Did you take a picture?!

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