Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More Tales Of Vermin

The piece I published yesterday, The Ant & The Dishwasher, brought to mind two other pieces I've written concerning unwelcome house guests. Well, to be honest, Michelle (a new mommy, by the way, so head on over and give your congrats) reminded me of one, and I came upon the other while searching for that one. I'll be presenting them in slightly modified format from the originals, so they're re-runs but not quite. In addition, you get BOTH of them here, rather than me taking up two days of space with them, so shut up.

(To be honest, though, this will be my last post for this week, so I'm really taking up three days worth of space with them, and that's not counting the long holiday weekend, which would make it six days of space, and then I might just get even lazier and not have anything else for you after the weekend for a few days, so if you shut up before, now you can start squawking again.)

Here's a comment made on the original posting of The Ant... in 2010, which brought to mind another ant story.

First, the comment, by Eva Gallant, of Wrestling With Retirement:

I had a bout with ants, years ago. We had just moved into a house and my in-laws had come to dinner for my son's first birthday. After dinner, I opened the kitchen cupboard to get the birthday cake, and my baby-blue frosting was black! The cake was covered with little black ants - hundreds of them! I screamed and screamed, and hubby grabbed the cake and threw it out onto the front lawn. No birthday cake that day! Luckily, at 1 year old, my son had no clue what had happened. We ended up getting the exterminators in and they found a huge ant nest in behind the dishwasher. No, no qualms about killing those suckers :-)

Aside from alarming me concerning the possibilities now inherent with my voluntarily having left an ant in my own dishwasher, Eva brought the following memory to mind.

In a previous home, we had ants. No big deal, though. We would see one every so often, but never more than one at a time. Whenever I saw one, I usually just let him be on his antly way. He wasn't bothering me, so why should I bother him?

Well, one evening I had made a New England Boiled Dinner. It was mighty good, too, and mostly finished in a rather expeditious fashion by the two of us. The next day, I had the little bit of leftover ham for a mid-morning snack. All that remained was a decent-sized hunk of boiled cabbage. We then went out on some errand or another.

When we returned home, I saw that I had left the bowl of cabbage on the counter, uncovered, rather than returning it to the refrigerator. And, when I walked over to the bowl, I saw that it was FULL of ants; thousands of them. I guess they really, really, really like cabbage.

Anyway, it made disposal of them quite easy. I took the entire bowl outside and left it there. And I'm delighted to report we had no ants after that - not even a lone straggler - for months. I can only come to one of two possible conclusions:

1 - Cabbage kills ants.


2 - My New England Boiled Dinner kills ants.

In any case, if I ever again find us infested with a large and troublesome colony, I will try to remember this lesson. I will lay out a large bowl of cabbage and see what happens. Rest assured that, when I do, you'll hear about it, in detail.

Soon, with more boiled cabbage (which drawing of, by the way, I got from Uncle Stinky. No, I didn't make that up.)

P.S. It just occurred to me that perhaps the ants all got vicious gas from the cabbage and then exploded. I still don't like killing insects, but if that's what happened, I wish I had seen it.


And now, the second piece, entitled, simply enough...


(The artwork is from: which is well worth a visit and much more meaningful than anything I have to say.)

I don't kill bugs. I don't step on ants, swat flies, crush beetles, burn spiders, or spray wasps. At least, I try not to. Some people think this is strange.

If you kill a bug or two, here or there, I'm not going to call out some sort of PETA-style group of insect lovers to come to your home and hold a protest. I am not a Jain. I can understand where killing bugs is sometimes useful or even necessary. I have killed quite a few of them in my day. I'm not proud of it, though.

The thing is that I never kill a bug just because the bug is there. If a bug is doing something to harm me, I will act appropriately. A mosquito, for instance, may be drilling into my arm. I feel no compunction about killing that mosquito. She started it. Some folks, however, go out of their way to squash anything they see moving. An ant is walking around somewhere, not doing anyone any harm, just thinking whatever an ant thinks ("I'm an ant. There's a leaf. I'm gonna pick up that leaf and drag it home. It'll make a nice end table.") and one of these folks will actually take two or three steps to the left in order to end that ant's life.

A person just snuffs another living creature for no reason? That, my friends, is not a nice person. As soon as I see someone do something like that, I know that person is not to be completely trusted. Where does that person draw the line? At what point will he or she decide that a life is important enough to not be arbitrarily ended at his or her whim? I'm not sticking around to find out.

Some of you are no doubt thinking, "Hey, Jim, lighten up. It's just an ant." Maybe so. Maybe some creatures are less significant than others in the larger scheme of things. I'm certainly not entirely innocent of killing things for my own pleasure. I'm not a vegetarian. Maybe there is, in the long run, nothing morally wrong with stomping an anthill. I eat cows and chickens and pigs and fish, among other things. However, I don't see a chicken and automatically think about bringing a boot down on it's head. So, I'm willing to cut you some slack if you eat the bugs you kill, OK?

Where do you draw the line? Where is your line of demarcation between insignificant enough to squish and significant enough to show some respect as a living thing?

I think most people - at least, those willing to entertain such thoughts and not limited in their mental capabilities - sooner or later realize that the small size of the creature is their main rationale for killing it. A bug finds it's way into your home and is crawling across your living room floor, so *STOMP* and no more bug. What if a sparrow finds it's way into your living room? You gonna step on it? Or are you going to try to somehow get it back outside? How about a frog? Pretty messy to stomp on a frog. How about a stray cat? Got a catswatter handy? You draw the line somewhere. Where is it?

I make every effort to remove an unwanted living thing from my home and place it outside. If it's not harming me - or someone I love - I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture it and relocate it. At those moments, I like to think of myself as an extremely small game hunter. Some of them aren't easy. Centipedes (ugh) move pretty damned fast. Flies have to be snuck up on very slowly, almost as though you were a cat pouncing on a mouse. Beetles, on the other hand, offer little challenge at all. I would say that they lay there like slugs, but thankfully I've never had to remove any slugs from my living room and I hope to hell you haven't had to, either.

(I bet you don't step on slugs; way too squishy. Ooog.)

Speaking of slugs reminds me of a particularly nasty sort of person. I'm talking about the folks who not only think nothing of killing small creatures, but who delight in finding "entertaining" ways to destroy them; the sort of person who pours salt on a slug. This is the same type who enjoys pulling wings off of flies or plucking the legs off of a daddy-long-legs spider. While I would rather not see bugs killed for no reason, as I said earlier I won't shun you for it - if you have a reasonable excuse. However, I believe these people have a special spot reserved for them in Hell. There is no moral defense for making a creature suffer needlessly.

(I also suspect there is a special place in heaven for those who go out of their way to do something nice for creatures that are seemingly unlovable or gross or downright scary. I sure hope so. I've done an awful lot of things in my life that mark up heavily on the bad side of the karma scoreboard. I can use the help.)

There's not a heck of a lot else to say here, I suppose. Either you agree with me or not. I'll finish up by telling you about a gift my Mom bought me a couple of birthdays back.

My Mom knows how I feel about bugs, of course. I think she basically agrees, although she also may not be averse to destroying, say, a cockroach here or there. However, respecting my feelings about this, she bought me a very cool tool called a Bug Buddy. It is one of the most marvelous gifts I've ever received and one of the most useful.

The great thing about this tool is that you can catch the bugs easily, without harming them, and then release them at your leisure. I used to catch bugs in all sorts of improvised contraptions and the problem was that they usually took both hands to hold the bug in (an index card over the top of a glass, for instance) so I had to not only release the bug ASAP, so as to regain the use of my hands, but I also had to find some way to keep the bug in captivity using only one hand while I maneuvered the door open, and then the screen door, and so on. With the Bug Buddy, it's a one-handed operation to catch the bug and if I want to study it for a while (which I don't normally want to do, but I'm just saying) I can. When I go to bring the creepy-crawly outside, I can open the door with no worries about doing a buggy balancing act. Just a marvelous thing to have around if you are in the habit of relocating insects (or you've been so moved by my prose that you're going to start today.)

"He wouldn't even harm a fly." I could think of worse things to have as my epithet.

Soon, with less buggy stuff.

40 comments: said...

I could use one of those bug buddies! Working with small children, it's important to "rescue" bugs that come into the classroom. After all, if we squish them, their families would miss them! Hey... you gotta start somewhere to help kids develop empathy!

Anonymous said...

Yep, there is something inherently nasty about going out of your way to kill another living thing - even if it's only a bug. If they're not harming you, what's the point?

- Jazz

PS: Long weekend? You guys get a long weekend in February?

Anonymous said...

Yikes! I just learned I am NOT a nice person!

Just curious: do you like roaches too? (Not of the smoking kind *grin*)

Well, bugs SCARE me. I can't explain it, except I hate having ANYTHING creepy crawly on me. And in my fear I've been known to squash a bug or two (or three).

Am I banned now? *grin*

Suldog said...

Boom Boom - They're fairly inexpensive, and the opportunity to study the bugs might be something useful for small kids, too.

Jazz - Yes, we have "Presidents Day", which used to be just "Washington's Birthday", but now includes such luminaries as Chester A. Arthur and Warren G. Harding.

Quirky - No, I won't ban you. I understand being scared of things. Being the manly-man I am, I haven't ever experienced that sort of thing, of course, but I understand it in the abstract :-)

Mich said...

Oooo Bug Buddy?!? I have to get one of those! Would no doubt be much better than breeding praying mantises in the basement. (Mum wasn't too thrilled about that one...).

I've never understood people who just kill bugs for no reason. And when they're in the house, it's not like it difficult to relocate them. Except in winter... Is is weird that I'll put them in a dark corner of the basement so they won't freeze to death outside?

Pat - Arkansas said...

Congrats on POTW for your mouse story!

Your tender heart is showing again. Good man!

Moannie said...

We have had many 'bug' experiences on our travels - scorpions,huge ants, spiders of the hairy kind - and I can honestly say that I never went near them. I sent in the troops and did not suffer a moments pang of guilt. Anything that can cause me harm either by sting or bite 'stay away from my door or you are doomed' equally, if you are a fly with designs on my sugar bowl as latrine-begone or you are squashed...sorry Jim.

Unknown said...

Hey, we all learn to live with them...last year there were ants invading the house through my old leaky windows ...but then I saw that they were trying to escape earwigs in pursuit. There was major slaughter going on on my window sills . So I moved mulch away from my house to discourage earwigs and planted mint to discourage ants ... the cycle moved elsewhere one got hurt by my hand . But the slaughter continues...That's okay by me as long as it's not on my territory...that I know of .

Shammickite said...

I once had a panic phone call from my next door neightbour.... ANTS! Come quickly! I rushed next door, and I couldn't belive my eyes. TENS OF THOUSANDS of black ants with wings were streaming out of her ceiling, down the wall and across the floor in an orderly fashion.... YIKES! Get the RAID!!!! I sprayed them while my neighbour huddled in a corner and screamed, and once they were all dead, I swept them up into huge black piles and disposed of them outside.... I've never seen anything as bad as that again.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

Jim - you might want to reconsider your cabbage theory, NTTAWT. I'm thinking that the ants are attracted to how the cabbage is prepared. I would be willing to wager a small amount that you could substitute a Brussels sprout cooked in bacon grease... or even possibly just the bacon grease.
The best part of that scenario is that there would be bacon.

Lori said...

Even though I am not really a bug person like you, I surely don't go out of my way to kill them but I have killed a few million mosquito's in my day along with about a million farm flies. You surely have a tender heart don't you? :)

Suldog said...

I'll admit to a similar slaughter on my part.

One time, while My Dad was in hospital, I went up to New Hampshire to tend to his house and make it ready for his homecoming. When I entered, I found entire squadrons of flies in his kitchen; hundreds of them. Well, as much as I try not to hurt living creatures, there was little choice here. I couldn't open the doors or windows and try to shoo them out. More would have just come in! And I wasn't about to bring My Dad home to a house infested with loads of flies, so I started swatting and swatting and swatting. I didn't like doing it, but, well, sometimes you have to, so I understand.

Michelle H. said...

Thank you for the mention. I remembered the device, although not the name of it from this post. I also remembered you had a second story about an ant, although I thought it had to do with a dishwasher. But I guess it was the cabbage/bowl/massive ant-sy gas post above. :)

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

Suldog, I found this some time ago and didn't know what to do with it. It seems appropriate to pass along now.

Buck said...

I don't often do this sorta thing, but... speaking of eating the bugs you kill...

Why do we ALL have bug stories? I smell a grant here.

The Broad said...

Your blog is VERY entertaining and I'm so glad to have discovered it. As much as possible I like to release whatever vermin is where I don't want it to be. Especially spiders -- which give me the hee-bee-jeebies, but nevertheless are very important and help keep the insects under control. We have some problems with little field mice in France in the summer, and for that reason allow the wild cats to remain in the attic -- as a result we haven't seen a mouse for years. Big problem with flies though -- the biting kind -- I have discovered some skin creams though that are good for me and that they don't like. But my husband likes to sit outside like the King of Siam with a swatter in each hand, sure that he is making an indentation into the fly population, poor deluded old git! I'd love a bug buddy -- maybe when I get back to the States on a visit...

Craig said...

OK, with your third vermin post in a week, you've finally managed to provoke a couple stories from me. . .

One summer when I was in college, I lived in a house in the 'student ghetto' part of town that had a really high-grade cockroach infestation. One of my housemates and I would get up around 5AM for our jobs, and when we'd turn on the kitchen light, there'd be this noisy scatter, as all the roaches took off for their hiding places. So one morning, my buddy and I, being moderately creeped-out by the whole scattering-roaches thing, put on our work boots and walked around the kitchen with the light off - CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH. And then we turned on the light. I'll just say "Ewwwwwwwww" and leave it at that. . .

When I was in high school, a buddy of mine, named Mo, was in a drafting class with me. One winter day, we were busy at our drafting tables, when a fly crawled across Mo's table. He whipped out his handy-dandy aluminum eraser-shield and flicked the fly, stunning it, but not killing it. Then he plucked a hair from his head, and tied a little lasso around the fly's mid-section. He bummed a sewing needle from one of the girls in the class, stuck the needle into a pencil eraser, and then tied the other end of the hair thru the eye of the needle, so the stunned fly was just kinda hanging by the hair-lasso, from the needle in the pencil. In a couple minutes, the fly woke back up, and Mo stuck the pencil in his pocket, and went thru the rest of the day with his 'pet fly' zooming around in little circles from the pencil in his pocket. . . It was really pretty outrageously hilarious. . .

Hilary said...

I like the idea of the bug buddy. I try to leave most things be, also but every now and then, there's something just a little too creepy for me to want to handle (spiders and ear wigs are in that category for me) or ignore. That device would come in very handy then.

Anonymous said...

I love this post for several reasons. First of all, I'm going to get a Bug Buddy today! Actually, two (I think I mentioned my son to you, didn't I?) Second, this reminded me of my children's book (still in first draft format.) WHEN I get it published, I'll send you a copy. I think you'll like it.

Suldog said...

Buck - Oh, my...

If you haven't clicked on Buck's link already, do so now. Great bug story.

Suldog said...

This is great! You're all crawling out of the woodwork, not unlike some of the creatures I've written about, and telling me tremendous stories. A few selected responses...

The Broad mentions spiders. As she mentions, they are extremely good at ridding you of other pests without you having to get your hands dirty. For the most part, I try to leave them where I find them (unless it's the bedroom - shudder.)

Craig - Really? True story? That's hilarious! I mean, the one about the fly. The cockroach one... EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!

Hilary - You would be the perfect person to own a Bug Buddy. You should definitely get one.

Barbara - Same to you. And, when your book is published, I would absolutely LOVE to have a copy. You're a great writer.

Anonymous said...

I draw the line at "Does this scare the living daylights out of me and is there any chance it might crawl/fly onto any of my body parts?"

In other words, spiders outside are ok; spiders inside - SQUISH.

And here's my story: I'm a newly divorced young mother. So miserable that I can't sleep at night, so I sit in front of the tv every night until I'm near passing out, then I stagger to the bedroom. One night I stumble into my nearly dark bedroom and see a way too big to even fit into a Bug Buddy spider - on the wall just over my pillow!

I run back down the hall to grab a magazine or something substantial to swat the spider. I creep back to my bed to surprise the spider - and no spider - it has crawled away somewhere. I turned on the lights and searched everywhere. I never found the spider and slept in sheer terror for months.

Thanks for reminding me, Suldog. :(

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

OK, I'm gonna tell a bug story... but not here. I need a post over at my place.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention this spider episode happened 20 years ago - and I still shudder thinking of it.

Angela Christensen said...

Okay, I, too, have a general rule about capturing the bugs who come indoors and putting them outside where they belong. The only vertitable outdoor bug stalking I do is of witches' horses. Do you even know what these are in the cold wilds of New England? They are extremely large grasshopper-thingies, with some bright colors like yellow and red, which presumably serve to warn predators that they Do Not Taste Good; I believe this because our dogs, when entreated to catch one, only do it once. The rationale for my death campaign is simple: they eat the figs we treasure (as well as canna lily leaves and just about anything else that grows). I hate them unreasonably. But I still feel bad about killing them.

Maggie May said...

I hate spiders but I always try & catch them. I rescue drowning ladybirds from pools of water.
I try not to kill bugs for the sake of it. But...... there has to be a line... anything that bites, fleas, midges, wasps that can't easily be caught, bluebottles & all flies, get swatted. Anything that spreads germs has to go.I go to great lengths to save a trapped bee.

I wouldn't kill a bird but I have no scruples poisoning mice or rats provided that the poison & the bodies can't be eaten by anything else.
I HATE people who eat rabbits!!!!!!!!!

Maggie X

Nuts in May

Matt Conlon said...

You know, I don't mind admitting when I'm afraid, and the fact that I'm a skillion times bigger than a big has nothing to do with it.

Well, no... Actually, it has everything to do with it. I don't need anything that lays eggs, walks on poop, or stings crawling or flying up a nose, into an eye or ear, or in my mouth.

I don't mind seeing these bugs on my arm, but when they move too close to my face for me to see, I tend to get a little freaked out.

Craig said...

Absolutely true story. . . As one of my college buddies used to say, "That's a no-shitter".

messymimi said...

Well, i'm on your side. Don't squish if it's not hurting you.

Clare Dunn said...

A couple of times now, I have referred to you as "Soft". My opinion stands.

HOWever, after reading this post, I have a better insight into the WHY's of your mushiness, and a better understanding of the Suldog overall.

So: soft=compassion instead of soft=totally gonzo
I can live with that.

(Oh, don't fret! this will not affect your status as "My Favorite Target").

xoxoxo! cd

Jayne said...

Oh, how I could have used that cabbage when we opened up our bathroom wall!
And my husband would appreciate the Bug Buddy. Now I feel really guilty for squashing and flushing...

Cricket said...

What if a sparrow finds it's way into your living room?

Ironically, this happened to me just recently. And no, I didn't step on it. We have a large chimney. I was somewhere minding my own business when, apparently, my wife heard some fluttering in there. Now, if this were you would you:

a) wait for the damn thing to fly back up the chimney.

b) open the flue out of curiosity.

Well, you can do the math. Next thing I know I'm being, um... urgently summoned. It was a starling, actually. I did my best to help it out, opening windows wide left and right.

I don't know if this was a dumb starling or if it was doing the best it could with a teaspoonful of brains but it just didn't seem to get it. I'd open a window from the top, it would slam into the bottom and vers-visa.

I finally managed to get it out. By then I had about 10 open windows on a 20 degree day. Lovely.

My wife and I had a wee chat after about how to respond to a bird in the chimney in the future.

Cricket said...

p.s. I stepped out onto my back porch one summer night in the dark and almost got a big bare foot full of slug nastiness. Bleah.

Slugs and snails are after me... DDT keeps me happy...

If I Were God... said...

It has to be about where you come across them. If you're out in your yard or a park, that's where they live so just leave 'em alone.

But if they're in your HOUSE, that's where YOU live, and they must be smote. Next time you come across an ant, even a lone ant, understand he is not on vacation like say we would be in DC at the Lincoln Memorial, with a digital camera and a lunchbag he picked up from Subway on the way over. He's not going to take a few pictures of himself posing in front of your fridge, post them on his facebook page and then go home to where he really lives. He and his 5000 best friends are ALREADY at home. And the only place they can all score some eats is from you (your table, sink, cupboard, fridge). That's trouble kids. Gotta kill 'em.

Chris said...

Bug Buddy? My bug-dispatching object of choice is made by Reebok.

sweet pea. said...

hey hey. just wanted to let you know that i awarded you. click on my name, and then on my blog to check it out. youre even number one =)

Carolina said...

A couple of years ago I was in a shop where they had a big box full of bug-catchers. A stick with sort of a gun handle on one end and on the other sort of a closed flower consisting of lots of nylon threads that can be opened by pressing the gun handle (I'm not explaining this very well, can't think of another way to describe it). So, if for instance a spider is crawling around, press the gun, the flower opens, place it over spider, release gun, flower closes, open door, place spider outside. Great thing. Didn't cost a lot so we bought a couple and gave them to friends as a 'fun' gift. Was a big/bug success. Wanted to buy more, but can't find them anymore.

Your bug buddy could be a good alternative ;-)

sweet pea. said...

know what, go ahead and have at it. as long as its not TOO offensive, i should be alright. if its offensive but seriously funny, ill laugh at it. if i DO go away, i wont go away cursing you =)
soooooo i suppose you can take your shot(s), ill do my best to not be too offended =P

lime said...

my line? flies, mosquitoes, and cockroaches are automatically on the kill list. period. they are disease bearing and i have zero compunction about ridding them from existence when they come into my house. bees and spiders (maybe)i will try to shush outside because they contribute something useful. beetles i am neutral on.

Ericka said...

as i may have mentioned once or twice, i had a MUCH more liberal live and let live policy before i moved south.

then i met the 4" long flying cockroaches.

cockroaches are the one thing that turn me into a shrieking hysterical girl. i can't abide them.

i ended up going native and putting the exterminator on a quarterly schedule, with the rule that nothing under 10 pounds lives. i felt bad for the spiders, and moved as many of them outside as i could catch, but there was no other option.