Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fighting for Survival

They say we only grow when we struggle.  I haven't weighed myself for a while, but according to that statement which I now elect to interpret literally, I must be about 400 pounds.

Summer is always the most difficult time of the year in the Outback.  While Minnesota loses about half its population each winter (most are later found hiding in Arizona), the Australian Bush is something you really want to avoid in the summer.  Which ironically is at the same time.  So basically, January through March, we're all screwed no matter where we live.

I made it back to The Shed this 100° F weekend and was barred at the door by three large Redback spiders.  But they were no match for a stick and a half a can of spray.

Do Aboriginal people go around dot-painting
all the lizards in this country, or what?
Then I discovered that a colony of ants had appropriated an old sleeping bag for their nest.  There were signs of mouse activity, and some poison bait had been taken, but no sign of the corpses.  I'll bet the ants know where they are.  And, strangely, my new box of tissues was completely empty.

No fewer that two weird lizards of the kind shown here were living in the bottom drawer of the night stand where I keep a few extra sheets and towels.  It's actually a Thick-Tailed Gecko or Barking Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii).  The lizards, I mean - not the night stand, which used to be an antique until someone painted it green and gave it to me for free.  The mice had been in there, too.  It's where every last one of my tissues was found, torn up into neat little squares for some reason.  I really think mice must be OCD.
A Lizards' Paradise.

And in case you're wondering, Barking Geckos really do bark.  They made quite a fuss when I grabbed them with BBQ tongs, plopped them into a saucepan (which I knew by experience they could not climb out of), and removed them to the woodpile away from the Shed.

To top it off, a very large black scorpion was in the Shed, strutting around the sleeping area as though he owned the place.  I had my boots off and feet up, reading this exact bookwhen I saw it out of the corner of my eye.  I put my boots back on, went over, and stomped on it as hard as I could.  It got really angry and tried to ignore me.  Must be the female of the species (which is most likely Urodacus novaehollandiae, definitely ultra creepy but not really dangerous).

So then I stomped on it again, even harder. This time, some guts came out and it finally stopped being a scorpion.

Another polka-dotted lizard in a cardboard box for some reason.
The alert reader will have noticed that if I stomped "even harder" the second time, then I could not possibly have stomped "as hard as I could" the first time.  Because if that were true, then I would not likely have been able to stomp even harder within such a short time.  Did my muscles undergo a miraculous 10-second growth spurt?  OK, I admit to the inaccuracy.  The first time, I only stomped as hard as I thought I needed to.  Which in my defense was pretty damn hard, but obviously not hard enough.  I'm sorry.

Because, as the alert reader is also surely aware, this was not my first time stomping on a large scorpion in my shed with my boot.  I have a certain amount of experience doing this.  And I have to say that this latest one was by far the largest and hardest scorpion I have ever stomped on.

I also discovered that although its carapace appears dark, almost black under normal light, this kind of scorpion glows bright green under UV light.  How on earth did I discover that, you wonder?  Simple.  Being the science geek that I am, I carry a UV light around with me and look at interesting things with it from time to time, when I suspect that the items might be fluorescent.  Bark scorpions in my native Arizona (much smaller but much more dangerous than these) are widely known to be UV fluorescent, and this is actually the best wayto find and eradicate them.  But the bark scorpion is also pale yellow under normal light, virtually translucent in color, so it was unknown whether a black scorpion would also glow under UV.  Now we know that it does.  The contrast between its color under normal light versus under UV light is really astonishing!

Flyscreen judiciously applied prevents critters from
living inside furniture.
I will attempt to get photos of this phenomenon next time, but all the heat was too much for my good camera's battery.  Which brings up the point I started out trying to make:  in the summer, one must work extra hard to keep a place like the Shed from being taken over completely by the creatures of the Bush.  And, it's too darn hot to really do very much besides spray a bunch of insecticide all around and wait until winter to try anything more ambitious.

I did manage to do this one thing:  I added flyscreen mesh to my antique green nightstand to keep mice and lizards from making it their future home.

If you have a cabin, a shed, a beach house, vacation dwelling, a "granny flat" out back or even a guest bedroom you don't use very often, then I recommend the following precautions:
  • All food must be in sealed cans, glass jars, hard plastic bottles, or buckets with tight-fitting lids.  No food can be left in cardboard boxes or plastic bags.  They will be opened and used to support an entire ecosystem.  
  • All sheets, towels, clothing or fabrics must be stored in sealed plastic bins. 
  • The backs and bottoms of dressers, chests of drawers, wardrobes, etc. must be sealed using flyscreen material or thick plastic sheeting (and mice have been known to chew through both).  
  • Something has to be done about the beds and mattresses. But I haven't figured out what just yet.
  • Gaps, nooks, crevices, and voids in doors, walls, furniture, ceilings and appliances where vermin can nest should be filled with expanding foam or thoroughly sealed up. 
  • All trash must be removed upon vacating the premises (my biggest problem - I keep forgetting to do this).
  • No water must be left available.  Roaches can live a long time on apparently nothing, but cannot survive long without water.  Plug drains, empty anything containing water that isn't sealed, and shut off supplies. 

Finally, DO NOT feel sorry for them for even a moment.  They can, and should, survive just find outside where they belong.


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