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Creepy Crawlies

If you have a squeamish stomach, better not read this one. Don't say I didn't warn you!

We had a humongous wasps' nest in a hollow decoration on the side of the house. Since I had gotten tired of being buzzed every time I went past the spot, I called the exterminator. In the conversation that followed his arrival, I made the comment, "If you can't stand the critters, you don't belong living in the desert." Said exterminator proceeded to spray, and then empty, the contents of said decoration. There must have been thousands nesting in there! I thought my troubles were over. Not quite. Over the next several years, we would experience the need to kill up to ten wasps in the living room, each day. The survivors had merely taken up residence in the ceiling. Since our predecessors had drilled a number of holes in the ceiling, these yellow wasps would ooze out of said holes and fly around the room. After putting up with this for several years, we finally decided to leave them alone. They never stung anybody. So we just let them hang around. I finally found and plugged the last relevant hole, and we haven't had any problems since. But that's also because I keep replacing the duct tape over the hole in the light switch where they also like to come in, whenever it falls off.

There is also a smaller red wasp which is a lot more friendly, and sometimes gets tangled in my hair, but he is equally mild-tempered. And there is a very interesting wingless wasp I have seen outside occasionally. It looks like a huge ant, black head and thorax, red hairy abdomen. It's called a red velvet ant, but it's a wasp. I have NO idea if they are obnoxious or not; they are very shy, and I have never been able to get a picture of one.

Perhaps leaving them alone is what an old desert rat like me ends up doing with most of the creepy crawlies. Well, almost. There are three kinds of crawlies that I will kill on sight. One is the rattlesnake that gets too close to the house. But if he is on the road far from the house, I drive around him. Another is kissing bugs. That's the vernacular for the cone nose beetle. This beetle likes to suck blood, and to keep it from coagulating, she injects something first. Whatever it is they inject causes huge welts on me. These welts will be up to four inches in diameter, a half inch thick, and sore as the dickens. I also sometimes get a headache. I have developed a remedy for them, but it doesn't always work. And for some reason, they really like the way I taste. During the season, I get bitten several times a week. The only thing I have found that really and truly works is these ultrasound gadgets intended to repel insects. These are quite effective. Nothing else works.

These nasty bugs aren't the only thing that I have encountered. I have also been stung by scorpions, oh, five or six times. I won't describe what that feels like. If you really want to know, email me. The first time was when I reached into a trash can in which I kept the goat feed. The second two times took place over a span of only a few days, and both times I was in bed, sound asleep. After that, I kinda lost track. But whenever I see a scorpion in the house, I kill it. Last time I killed a scorpion, she had a pack of babies on her back. I killed as many of them as I could, too.

And then there are the ants. Large black or red ants. The black ones hurt like fire; I have never been bitten by a red one. My favorite remedy for black ant bite? Find a little prostrate spurge, crush it so the white juice comes out, and rub that on. Works very, very well! If you can't find any prostrate spurge (it only grows during the rainy seasons), try some wet baking soda; works for bee and wasp stings, too. Best way to avoid being stung by ants is to watch where you are stepping, and don't stand still in one spot.

Then there was the time we were out gathering herbs, and someone inadvertently got too close to an underground wasp's nest. I got four stings, and my older daughter got seven. She actually went into shock. We used the inside of prickly pear pads for that. It works quite well, but make sure the piece is big enough. I found that where I put the pad, there was no pain, but AROUND it, it was quite sore.

Several of the kids have also been stung by scorpions.

But we were relatively lucky. I haven't yet mentioned that my oldest son was bitten by a centipede which measured 14 inches long, or that my husband was bitten by a black widow spider, or, piece de resistance, that my youngest son was bitten by a rattlesnake.

At the time of the rattlesnake bite, I happened to be out videotaping a string concert, guest youth orchestra from Germany. I got paged. I recommended that my husband contact our friend who is knowledgeable about herbs, and ask her for recommended treatment. She's the same one we consulted on the black widow bite. We implemented her recommendations, and our son recovered completely. But he doesn't like rattlesnakes. Wonder why! Hey, if he hadn't been running behind the house at dusk, it would never have happened! Another thing people should never do, is when climbing rocks, to put their hands up on a rock where they can't see the top of the rock. But I greatly envy the dogs. Several of them have been bitten. But their livers are wonders at detoxification, and take care of things in short order.

But that didn't mean it didn't scare the heck out of me when one of them started foaming at the mouth. Most likely, he decided to retrieve a Colorado River toad. They have something obnoxious on their skin.

And I just went out the other day, and discovered why the other dog had been barking that "Mom, the javelina are back" bark the night before. It wasn't the javelina he was trying to tell me about; it was a rattlesnake. Since I didn't respond, they killed that rattler for themselves.

One time, I had a snake in the house. It was a foot long. It was kinda dark, and it did have markings like a rattler. Not to take any chances, I called the fire department. Fire departments around here will come collect snakes on request. Turns out this one was harmless. It is simply a snake that mimics the rattler's appearance. So I asked them to leave it outside, because it will take territory away from snakes I don't want.

In addition to the above obnoxious and unwanted visitors, we have bees, including Africanized killer bees, other kinds of bees, coral snakes, other kinds of wasps, lots of different kinds, some kind of stinging insect I can't name, brown recluse spiders, millipedes, and one of the two poisonous lizards of the continent, the Gila monster. That's pronounced "HEE-lah". We saw a Gila monster on the property ONCE. I wouldn't mind them being around. They're too slow to prove much of a threat. And they're kinda neat. Can't say I ever saw any killer bees, but one time not long after their arrival in Arizona, we did have a swarm of indeterminate bees decide to set up housekeeping, at least temporarily, under the eaves of the house. I called the exterminator that time, too.

Other than that, we have mice and rats that like to chew electric wiring and get into food (so do a lot of tiny insects), including rats that carry the Hanta virus (only one or two reported cases in the area, fortunately), pack rats which build nests that harbor kissing bugs, several kinds of roaches, mosquitoes (in the city, only), houseflies, bats, porcupines, and skunks, which occasionally end up being rabid. I have a friend who was bitten by a rabid skunk once, a pet. Believe it or not, they didn't give him vaccine, he contracted rabies, and he survived! He made the newspapers. The articles credited modern medicine; he credits prayer.

Speaking of chewing electric wiring, we have other destructive insects, such as termites and silverfish.

My oldest son liked to keep various spiders as pets. That was fine with me. At one time, he had a tarantula, and another time he kept a pregnant wolf spider. The wolf spider is a hairy spider about 2 inches in diameter (including the legs). She had about 100 babies, and he inadvertently dumped them out of the jar in his room. So I laughed and said, "It's your room. I'm not worried about it."

Bet you thought the desert was a barren place! It's not, at least not around here. It's teeming with life.

Oh, and that terrible looking spider on the left, the one that looks like it came out of a grade B horror movie? That's a tarantula, and it's perfectly harmless.

So what did we do about all this? Well, we still live here.

Like I said, if you can't handle the critters, you don't belong in the desert.

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