Wednesday, April 15, 2009


My napkin poises over the small eight legged invader to my home. It’s a tiny bug and I could destroy it with the most minute bump of my pinky. The insect senses danger as I sweep down on it and it frantically scrambles; all eight legs thrashing wildly in a dash of self-preservation.

Scooping it up into soft white depths to cushion my captive from my comparatively large and clumsy hands, I shake the napkin over my kitchen counter. As it drops down onto the smooth surface, it takes cover behind my knife block before it can be taken hostage again.

I watch from my towering spot of 5 feet, 4 inches from the ground, as this bitty and delicate creature finds refuge behind my cooking appliances. I feel almost benevolent allowing this morsel to seek sanctuary in my warm, dry home. The rain outside has been chasing a number of creatures indoors, and that is actually the precise reason I’m allowing it to live.

Symbiotic relationships exist all throughout nature. Bees collect nectar from flowers to make honey and inadvertently pollinate them. The Oxpecker bird eats parasites and ticks off the skin of zebras and rhinos. In exchange for a meal and the protection of a large creature (which makes it harder for small predators to kill them) they clean their skin and alert their host of the presence of large predators.

Humans play host to a multitude of bacteria and microscopic organisms for everything to digesting our food to eating the dead cells that flake off our skin. And humans have used insects as part of medical practices for centuries.

Sterilized blow fly larvae (aka: maggots) clean dead tissue out of deep wounds that would become infected and gangrenous resulting in amputation or death.

Blood sucking leaches are attached to re-attached limbs or extremities of someone with poor circulation (like with diabetes) to draw life sustaining blood through reluctant veins and arteries. They are also thought to secret a chemical that fights infection.

Swallowing whipworm eggs seem to help people with IBD (Irritable Bowel Disorder), and there are other examples of scientists of past and present using creatures that seem like the scavenger things of nightmares to actually make people’s lives better.

You might say I’m transplanting opportunistic spiders (the non-poisonous variety) to help combat the more obnoxious creatures that I honestly have no use for in my home.

I’ve done the whole “Pest Control” process with having a licensed company come out and spray around the house and yard. But I find that it doesn’t really eliminate the insects. And I hate having toxic chemicals around and in my house. I’ve never had a problem with the typical offenders: termites, mice and cockroaches. Mostly I get ants. In droves. Every year they find a way in and I battle them out, only to have them find a new way in the following season.

That’s where my arachnid friends come in. Behind the tank in the master bathroom, in the corner of the blinds next to the living room window, in the pantry near the containers of flour and boxed goods…you will find one of my watchmen. I clean out around their webs and occasionally take them down if they’ve become a mess, but leave the spider unharmed. They’re my troops in a battle of conquest. In keeping weevils, ants, fruit flies and other miniature nauseating bugs at bay, these spiders earn their spot in my home just as well as any dog or cat.

Large spiders don’t share the same fate. I don’t want to have anything around that could be poisonous, doesn’t build a web or doesn’t stay in one spot. And a larger spider wouldn’t be content with a steady diet of ants. Anytime I find the bigger variety of spiders in my house they’re covered with a cup, scooped up by sliding a strip of cardboard underneath then flopped on their backs to be transported outside, or they find their end at the bottom of a shoe, inside the canister of a vacuum cleaner or inherit a swirly watery toilet grave.

Other pests like slugs, earwigs, roly-polys and silverfish find no welcome in my castle either. ‘Depart or die: posthaste’ is my mantra. Honestly though, I don’t give them much chance to make a decision. They were beyond that point of no return the moment they invaded my territory.

I hate bug spray. Even in small amounts. I find that a spray bottle full of the regular, clear anti-bacterial hand soap and water does a marvelous job of killing anything that is thumb-sized or smaller. Blow flies, wasps and large spiders that try to nest around the outside of my house get a serious dousing of this excellent soap. Depending on their size, they either die immediately or within seconds. Anything with a shell seems impenetrate-able at first, but after wading through a soapy moat surrounding their escape, they too sluggishly halt and succumb to death.

I love the fact that there is no chemical residue left over, no toxic fumes, causes no risk to humans (children) or large pets if it comes in contact with their skin (you wash with it for pities sakes!) and once the insects are dead, a swipe with a dry paper towel leaves the surface actually cleaner than before!

Also, if you have a sink full of dirty dishes or a counter with spills and crumbs but don’t have time to take care of them and are afraid if you leave you’ll return to a full on ant invasion: spray everything down well with the soapy spray and the bugs won’t go near them. It’s awesome. I could be a spokesperson for this product!

I watch the spider for a few moments longer, as it moved around the counter finding a good spot. The ants mill around unaware their days are numbered. Soon a little web will be ensnaring them and hopefully deterring any more of their comrades. As long as my new little friend does his job, my home is his home.

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