Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Space Invaders

Critters and creepy crawlies are just part of life in Africa. My coworkers have great stories about all kinds of wildlife that came to stay over at their houses, from hand-sized spiders to Gambian pouched rats to baby cobras. So far I've been pretty lucky as far as keeping the inside in and the outside out - I've had a gecko or two and the periodic cockroach, but nothing major. They entertain the cat. I pay a bounty of three cat treats per cockroach corpse, which encourages him to keep sharp and to not eat the carcasses, which tend to result in some nasty cat puke messes when ingested.

But I went on vacation, and all of a sudden the outside came in with a vengeance. I discovered my first unexpected houseguests when I went to make some biscuits and noticed that my flour was wriggling. The whole bin was utterly infested with a colony of weevils (I think), which was busily laying the foundations of a great civilization in my pantry. It was interesting, in a nature-study sort of way, to see through the clear plastic all the little tunnels they dug, kind of like an ant farm. But I lost the whole lot of flour, since even my finest strainer couldn't keep the larvae out. Yes, I tried sifting the bugs out to save my flour. This is how you know you've adapted to local conditions.

My second surprise visitor revealed itself through ear-splitting squeaks: the Jabberwock had encountered his first mouse. He had it cornered in the sunroom but seemed disinclined to immediately dismember and devour his ancestral prey, perfectly happy to watch his new toy squirm and poke it periodically to make it squeak. After all, he'd just been fed. I trapped it under a bowl and brought it out to the guards, who graciously stomped it to death for me, much to Jabbers' disappointment. I never let him have any fun.

Jabberwocky's lack of carnivorous bloodlust now has me looking for something that's not an oxymoron, exactly, but occupies a similar space of things-that-should-not-be: a cat-safe mousetrap. He's on his own until I get some though, and since the most reliable and accessible food source in the house is his own food dish, he might find himself with incentive to get a little more confrontational.


  1. Remind me to never eat any flour-based foods at your house...

  2. If it makes you feel any better, I live in Charleston, SC, and I've been the victim of flour mites, mice, and roaches. Old houses and humidity. The internet is full of mite tricks, but I think the best trick is to keep your flour in an air tight (a plastic bag will not do the trick, the mites can bore holes in the plastic) container, preferably in the freezer.

    The best mice traps are the snap traps that once the trap springs and you've caught the damn thing, you just throw the whole trap in the trash. They sell these cheap at Lowes and home depot, maybe you can order them to have around for future need? This is the one I used -

    As for roaches, it depends on how aggressive you want to be, and how you feel about pesticides. But - this stuff - - you buy in powder form and mix using one of these things - Spray a perimeter around your house, and in the windows and cracks - and keep the cat away until it dries, and roaches will find another house to harass for like six months. It's amazing. The roaches around here have wings and fly, and I am willing to go to great lengths to not have a roach land on me in my bedroom.

    1. I actually have great air tight containers and have never had a problem before, which makes me think these particular creepy crawlies came in with the flour to begin with.

      I've ordered some of these - - for the mice. My neighbor swears by them. They aren't quite as tidy as yours look, but they are reusable, a big plus when you can't just run out for more.

      As for the roaches, they don't really bother me. Thanks to the cat their lives are generally nasty, brutish, and short. And it's usually only one every now and then, though there was this one time when I had what can only be termed a roach explosion: a whole nest must have hatched at once, because the cat got at least 15 of them in 24 hours. He was very proud of himself. I was proud of him too!

  3. Man, what a useful animal. I might consider getting a cat simply to hunt roaches. My dog is short on the marketable skills. I also killed mosquito with my hands inside my house yesterday. It's January, and it was 30 degrees when I woke up this morning, but the mosquitoes don't seem to care.

    I can't even talk about a nest of roaches hatching. I'm going to pretend that never happened. Also, banana spiders eat roaches, so having one in your yard is helpful.

    Wouldn't you hope that if the bugs came with the flour that keeping it in an airtight container would kill them? Is that wishful thinking?

    1. I'm sure they would have all died out eventually - it hardly seemed like a sustainable ecosystem - but given the size of the container and how tiny the bugs are I'm sure it would have taken a long, long time. I'm not that patient.