Gina’s Review: We’ve all had experiences with unwanted pests in our living spaces. Read this blog to learn some really interesting removal methods!
There’s always a shock at finding a large insect in your home, where you least expect it. When I moved to Texas, I had just such an encounter. I sleepily started to make my breakfast one morning not long after my relocation. I opened the silverware drawer for a spoon to find a fat and happy cockroach perched on the spoon stack. I yelped quite loudly and slammed the drawer. I had never seen a cockroach before that day. There followed a long and cantankerous relationship with one of the most repulsive bugs with which I’ve had to endure sharing living space.
I later rented an apartment with a coworker, in a large complex surrounded by beautiful trees, in a superbly located and much sought-after, swanky neighborhood on Memorial Drive in Houston. It was an older, gently decaying building in a rapidly modernizing area. The rents were reasonable but the cockroaches were not. This is where I discovered the infamous tree roach. Bigger than the average roach, these monsters encroached upon the interiors of that edifice and made scratching noises at night like mice setting up shop behind the walls.
I awoke in the early morning dark to just such a racket and turned on the light to see if the enemy could be crushed with a shoe. (Shoes are the best defense against cockroaches as whatever you smack them with must have a hard enough surface to crush their armor—sorry, that’s pretty graphic, but you become immune to the violence after a while). I found the rascal scritchy-scratching away with his hideous legs along the baseboard directly opposite my bed. I grabbed my weapon of choice and raised my arm to give the blow some serious heft, fueled by two-o’clock-in-the-morning indignation. That’s when it came at me like some creature from a horror movie. It flew!!
Once again, my ignorance of this particular bug led to my immediate shock. The scream brought my roommate and her boyfriend to my bedroom door with looks of terror. Their relief on hearing my story caused a bit of laughter among the three of us, but there was still a VERY large cockroach perched on my mirror, ready to divebomb me and my rallied troops. My would-be defenders gave advice from the doorway. I would have to keep after this bug until it landed on a slam-worthy, non-breakable surface. In the early morning hours, in my own bedroom, I learned how to skillfully hunt big game. This was the method of elimination I used for many years, until I had a child.
When our son reached an age of reason (say four), we were condemned for our choice of bug removal. One did not kill living beings. Duly chastised, we spoke in code when it came time for termite execution. We tried to keep the details of our nasty deed to ourselves, but once in Home Depot, having reached the destination of the pest extermination aisle, one of us (not me) read the words on the box of poison out loud. Our youngster, having gotten used to the term “termite trap,” realized our plan was not to simply give the wood-eating pests a new abode, but to heartlessly murder them. A wail went up on Aisle 7, worthy of war widows world-wide. We sheepishly tried to comfort him with the facts. These bugs would eat our whole house. There were lots of them and we simply could not relocate them all. Realizing our mistake (confession), we quickly switched gears and decided to hire a professional, who could place traps around the outside of the house and monitor them during the day, while the future president of PETA was at preschool.
Naturally, it was much more difficult to eliminate individual critters invading our home in the presence of our little buddha. In deference to his sensitivities, we adopted the “catch and release” system of removal. We had an official plastic cup and slim piece of cardboard with which we could lure (or shove) an unwelcome roach, spider, silverfish or stinkbug into the cup and slide the cardboard under it to trap it inside. Roaches are notoriously fast runners, so we often had to chase them for a bit. A quick walk out the door and a fast flick of the cup sent the nasty bugger on its way. It felt like a kind of redemption for all the bugs we had squashed and sent to insect heaven before the end of their natural lives. We used this humane method for many years until we moved to North Carolina.
In Texas we had cute little hoppy spiders, which were more comical than creepy. Our new house in Asheville sported a bumper crop of mid to jumbo sized spiders, lurking eerily in the basement. Since, as empty nesters, we no longer had to placate our pacifist offspring, my husband began a campaign of sucking up grotesque, multi-legged bodies into his shop vac. There were a lot of spiders down there. Unfortunately, the laundry room was also in the basement, nestled between the colony of Southern Trapdoor Spiders and Funnel Web Spiders along with a legion of unidentifiable crawlies which may have included Real or False Black Widow Spiders, but neither of us stopped to ask for their credentials. Total annihilation was our only option if our clothes were ever going to be washed.
I have the same aversion to spiders as I have to cockroaches, except spiders don’t usually fly at you. They can, however, descend upon you from above in an unbelievably heart-stopping way. In an effort to keep spiders from overproducing in my actual living space, I weekly scan the upper corners of every room, portable hand vac at the ready. This vigil did not manage to eliminate one hearty fellow who hid below my bed. As I was preparing for a peaceful night’s sleep, a huge, sturdy-legged, otherworldly invader crawled from behind my pillow and over the top, displaying itself in stark contrast to my white pillow case.
I wish I could say there was a carefully executed maneuver to remove this spider from my place of repose. In a moment of pure panic, I screamed (as usual) and heaved the entire pillow off the bed onto the floor. This method created an atmosphere of chaos for both the spider and my household. The spider prudently scurried for the nearest bolt hole while I explained to my husband why I never wanted to sleep in that bed again. I pulled back the covers and sheets to inspect for signs of any other unwanted visitors. I eventually got into that bed and have slept there almost every night since this incident, though I turn my pillow over before I get in to see what’s lurking beneath.
My friend Shelley prompted this story when she sent a picture of the largest spider I’ve ever seen. Most of the spiders I encounter simply magnify to giant proportions in my mind, but this one was undeniably the granddaddy of all arachnids, hanging out in her interior window. Her ability to photograph it and send it to me displays a degree of serenity I hope to one day achieve. Of course, she could have screamed in revulsion and run for the vacuum cleaner before she had the presence of mind to capture proof of its residency. I didn’t ask. Screen removal and a gentle nudge through the open window sent this mambo creepy crawly on its way before it could reproduce an army of gigantoid hatchlings.
Whether you are fascinated by them, or cringe at their appearance, bugs manage to coexist with us. I hope to find ways to coexist with them because I hear the cicadas are coming and I have no plan for any incidents of home invasion.
I’m always chasing rainbows…or bugs,
Guest Editor Gina easily related to this story and, having lived in Texas and Florida, is not the least bit squeamish about bugs. She believes roaches monitor our every move and come out to party when they think we are not looking. When they get too brazen, she swats them with a broom.