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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Conspiracy Theory

There are bugs in this state that is considered "Midwest." Lots and lots of bugs. Large bugs. Large bugs that are noisy. Smallish bugs that are poisonous. Very large bugs that are completely benign (and even quiet). Most of our bugs, however, are really qualified to be bugs of a southern state caliber. And let me qualify something here--while this is considered a "Midwest" state, we live in the far southwest corner of this "Midwest" state, and this far southwest corner is a mere 30 minutes north of a "Southwest" state, and a mere 90-ish minutes west of a "Southwest" state. I don't think the bugs here understand that they are not occupying a southern state, or most certainly they would pack up and move a bit more south, or west of us. It must be Global Warming that is confusing them. I realize I post each year at about this time about the bugs where I live. But the bugs here this time of year really are headline worthy.

I won't make this another post about the thousands of massive buzzing green June Beetles that hatch and overrun our neck of the woods each summer for about three weeks. And yes, we are infested with those as I speak.

What I really want to comment on has to do the poisonous spiders that live in the area and which are apparently especially prolific this year, and which we recently discovered have set up house--in OUR house. These spiders are known as Brown Recluse, and in all the years I've lived here, I've never felt the need to know anything more except that such a "boogey-spider" existed in this area. I assumed them to be some big hairy largish critter with large googly eyes, and about the size of a tarantula, and living only in the backwoods of the remotest hunting and camping spots of the region. Or something like that. This was all I needed to know or believe about such spiders. Afterall, while I've been known to hang out in, and thoroughly ENJOY, the backwoods and remote hunting and camping spots in wilder places of the United States (such as the northmost points in Idaho), I didn't live among bugs there. Oh sure, there were Grizzly Bears and the like. But there weren't bugs. And if there were bugs, they must have been quite small, as I never saw them.

When our pastor was recently bit by a Brown Recluse spider, requiring a visit to the Emergency Room, I became morbidly curious. Google is equally handy and horrifying when a person is morbidly curious. I apparently now know more about the Brown Recluse spider than the professional exterminators who have come to our home recently, and who exterminate Brown Recluse for a living. After reciting a couple Brown Recluse facts, he informed me that he had learned something from me that day. That's when I decided I didn't need to talk to Google anymore about Brown Recluse spiders. Too much knowledge isn't always a good thing.

First of all, for those of you who are NOT familiar with these curiously NOT big hairy or googly-eyed spiders, here is a picture of what they look like (don't worry, I'll keep it a small picture):

See? It's not at all hairy. They don't even have barbs on their legs. And while they have six eyes (rather than the eight that spiders typically have) their eyes are not at all googly. And they are not even big. At full growth, their leg span is not typically much wider than a quarter, but they may only reach about dime width. That's a small specimen who can create quite a big injury. I'm not going to talk about the bites here. Suffice it to say that they are quite painful and can cause a big mess. In some cases even death, though more common a necrotic wound that will heal successfully if treated quickly. Nearly everyone I know around here either has been bit themselves, or know someone who has been bit.

After our pastor was recently bit and I launched my research, feeling relatively sure that I had never seen a spider like this, I happened by the sink in our basement kitchenette, where a spider caught my eye. I did a double take, as it looked exactly like the one in this picture. I stooped over as close as I dared, to examine the back of the critter to see if I could see the token "violin" shape. Indeed, there it was. I screamed for Dear Husband, who didn't spend near as much time or get nearly as close as I had to it in order to confirm the identification of it. He swooped in with a folded paper towel and squashed it, shrugging his shoulders and saying, "So?"

So? SO? SO???!!!!!!

Rest assured that I had already ordered some Catchmaster glue traps over the Internet, deciding that I was determined to see what we would catch. The traps arrived the day after Husband squashed the spider in the sink, saying, "So?" I ordered him to place them around the house. Lots of them. I had ordered 60 traps. Within a couple days, we started catching them. We went from not knowing what they looked like and never suspecting them in our home, to catching them by the dozens. I quickly made an appointment with the exterminator, and by the time he arrived, we had caught over 50.

At this point, we had spent two long days tearing apart our large basement storage area and garage. We store out of season clothing and linens in our storage room. And things were stored in cardboard boxes. Isn't that what storage rooms are for? Clothing and linens and boxes? I learned that is what Brown Recluse like to hide in. We tore it all apart, re-storing clothing in vacuum packed space bags and plastic bags with zip ties. We got rid of all the cardboard boxes. We went through everything. We only found about 2-3 Brown Recluse in the process. But in all, in the past three weeks, we have caught or killed about 75 of these critters. I've learned that they are known to be common HOUSE SPIDERS in this area, living in MOST-if not ALL-houses in this area. Who knew? Hairy backwoods spiders, indeeed.

If there can be any comfort in all of this, the vast majority of what we have caught are dime sized or even smaller. There have only been three or so quarter or larger sized. There have been many tiny ones the size of ants. I would guess we've had more than one relatively recent hatching, as we have juveniles at different stages. However, the exterminator told me that even the juveniles are capable of biting and causing damage to human bite victims.

And it provides a bit of comfort to know these spiders are called "Recluse" because they are, by nature, reclusive. They are shy, nocturnal predators that prefer to hide during the day and live in quiet undisturbed corners and crevices. They are not at all aggressive, and are incapable of biting unless their bodies are compressed, as would happen if sat upon, rolled over on in bed, or smashed against your skin when putting on clothing. So this is why bites often happen when you are sleeping at night. Yeah, suddenly my comfort level wanes a bit. In order to be bitten while sleeping at night, that means that the critter has to be IN your bed.

Most of what we've caught have been in the basement--but we have the kind of basement we LIVE in. Our family room, kitchenette, kids' playroom, office--all are in the basement. We have caught them in all of our bedrooms upstairs. We have 60 traps planted strategically around the entire 3,600 square footage of our home. I check them every morning and every night. I am the vacuum queen--vacuuming diligently in every corner and crevice regularly. I'm confident we are now having a dramatic decline, though I won't be satisfied until they are GONE from my home-something I've been cautioned is practically impossible in this area.

And common, indeed. So far, most people in this area I've commented to about our Brown Recluse battle respond that they have seen and killed them in their homes as well or are battling an infestation of their own.

I was even greeted by a largish Brown Recluse in the sink in the ladies' restroom at my office last week. I thought I was losing my mind. I'm pretty sure I muttered, "You gotta be kidding! These things must be following me!" before I wearily sought out one of the guys around the office to take care of it. Guys like to do those sorts of things--it feeds their egos.

Thankfully, no one in our household has been bitten. I'm vigilant to check bed sheets each night and rub the kids down with peppermint oil (speculated to be a deterrent). The exterminator will be back in two more weeks, and I will call him back every two weeks for as long as it takes.

I'll mention only briefly here that during the week that we caught the first 50 Brown Recluse in our home, I also killed a huge Black Widow in the garage. There are two poisonous spiders that live in this region--and both types apparently like our home.

I've thought a bit recently about moving back to the wilderness area of northern Idaho where I never saw bugs, and where I could leave Brown Recluse, massive golf-ball sized buzzing June Beetles, and other assorted very large and very noisy insects behind, and live peacefully in the mountain forests with the Grizzly Bears.


Vanilla Gorilla said...

Sleep tight.

Anonymous said...

Luckilly I don't experience this as I live in Singapore.Where the bug count is lower(I think).Anyway,your blog is awesome.

Riahli said...

Um yes move... My favorite thing about were we live on the rainy side of Washington, the lack of nasty mean creepy crawlies. Best selling point ever. :) I would have a serious panic attack in your place, I'd probably never sleep again as well. ;) I'm freaking out just reading about it!

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