Sunday, June 11, 2006

Spiders and lizards and fire ants

Sometimes I wish I had the persistence of fire ants or cock roaches. If you live in the South, no matter what you do or don't do, they will blight your life many times. Our house, at the moment, is free of roaches, but our yard is besieged by fire ants. I poison one hill of ants, and several days later they seem to be inactive. I think, "Oh, goody, I've gotten them this time."

No. They have just moved. The geographical solution seems to work for them. It never worked for me. When I moved, I just took my problems with me. They move away from the poison and build a new nest. Often they choose to build in a direct line between my front steps and the mailbox or the newly planted dogwoods - both directions in which I travel. I've learned to look where I'm walking, and I don't much walk in the front yard at night because I can't see them.

They are survivors, and I know that biologists praise the diversity of life on the earth, but there are a few species that I wish were less attracted to humans and human habitations. I've learned to get along with most spiders unless they surprise me or are in my bedroom. In fact, I'd rather keep them outside. I do okay with mice, and even some rats, as long as they are outside. I was distraught for days when I had to kill a mouse in our study once. And, I made the mistake of looking at it as I picked it up with a plastic bag; it had the prettiest big pink ears - looked just like the mice you see pictured in children's books.

We have not seen any snakes here, and I am glad. But, we do have several varieties of lizard; one is brown with a a gorgeous red head - and I do like red. This lizard grows quite large, 8-10 inches long and as big around as my thumb. I get along with our lizards okay. Two days ago, I pulled the hose around to the deck to water the plants around the fountain. As I started to lift it over the rail, I turned to face the deck and was nose to nose with a chameleon - so close I couldn't even focus on it. I stepped back, said hello, and then moved to put the hose over the rail. It didn't budge; so I just tossed the hose up and went on about the watering. As I watered the plants, it moved along with me, inches away from the plants. Finally, I teased it a bit with the water, and it seemed unconcerned.
We had a rat in the pile of limbs to go to the recycling place. We found five of her babies in a cardboard box that had gotten under the limbs, but we didn't see her at all. So, the babies, possibly old enough to live on their own, went to the dump, where they may have happy and bulging lives. However, when we finished cleaning up the mess there a few days later, the mother and one last baby had burrowed into the soft earth underneath everything. When we moved a 2 x 4, the mother went scooting off towards the back of the garage. The baby suffered head injury, and I had to kill it. Our friend and contractor couldn't kill it; he knelt down and was pushing gently on its chest to get it to live. He turned his back when I picked it up in a baggie to dispose of it.

Our place is critter friendly - except maybe for the fire ants. I keep battling with them, but I think they are winning.

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