Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Insects: Good and Bad

I managed to dodge a second spraying of my room by pest control today. A friendly representative of Cross Pest control visits us every third Wednesday to bait and spray assorted infested rooms in the building, also the shared kitchens and bathrooms.

Such a rigorous schedule is absolutely necessary to prevent a six-legged tide from rising up past our ankles. That's because many of the people who live in subsidized housing are either severely mentally ill and tend to hoard anything from clothing picked up off the street to teetering cliffs of food-encrusted Hungry Man® trays, or are just complete slobs whose hygiene hails directly from that practiced by Kublai Khan's feared legions. We are waging a war on three fronts: against cockroaches, bed bugs, and fruit flies. I remember my first summer here, before pest control started regularly baiting the common areas, when cockroaches would occasionally drop off the suspended ceiling in the kitchen — once on me! The cockroach situation is much-improved, but the bed bugs have swelled in ranks enough for me to occasionally spot one clinging to one of the community bathroom walls, and because we don't have a garbage chute there's always a small swarm of fruit flies hovering around the trash cans and recycling bins in the common kitchen — not to mention spilling out of rooms inhabited by the more slovenly alcoholics.

My room had been sprayed for bed bugs last month because when the janitor hauled my mattress out of the basement for me to clean with Urine Off® I found a couple of them on it. No, no one peed my bed, but a few days before a guest had managed to spew all over the side of it (also breaking my nice wood TV tray), whereupon in a fury I tossed my entire bed out into the kitchen to be taken away. Well, I changed my mind, because even with a nice thick carpet the floor isn't nearly as comfortable for me to sleep on as it would have been twenty years ago. That bed bug spray reeks; for days I would wake up feeling like I was in a Raid® commercial. I ended up blasting the bottom of my mattress (I didn't retrieve the frame or box spring) and the edges of my floor and baseboards with some LA's Totally Awesome to wash out the malodorous insecticide, and today I'm pleased to only catch a faint whiff of the stuff when inspecting the bottom of my mattress for bed bugs; which I do once a week to be safe. I've caught a couple hitch-hikers since I've lived here, so I'm very picky about who is allowed in my room. I'm pretty sure the two I'd spotted a month ago came from the basement, because that's a depot for all the junk left behind in rooms when people leave (usually evicted or dead) until a dumpster is called and everything is hauled out en masse.

Not all insects that invade homes are pests, however. I made the mistake of pointing out to a couple neighbors the spider I found tucked away in a corner of one of the kitchen windows. A guys who lives next door started freaking out, muttering about how he didn't want it to sneak into his room and bite him; I'm pretty sure he's the reason why the little critter's gone now ... Like a spider is going to go out of its way to bite someone on the ass in the middle of the night when its web is positioned right above the garbage cans in the kitchen, where the fruit flies hang out and breed! It was just one of those small banded spiders you see all over the place, spinning webs on porches and around windows and door frames patiently waiting for it's next meal. Seriously, I get a little spooked by spiders, too — thanks to growing up with an arachnophobic aunt — but I also find them fascinating and beautiful, and welcome them in my home whenever I see them because they're not only fascinating to watch but are out to eat the bugs I don't want around. While I've heard repeated rumors of brown recluse bites by homeless people, the only poisonous spider I know of in the Pacific Northwest is the hobo spider.

But, really, for the most part spiders are about as aggressive and dangerous as bees; don't mess with them and they won't mess with you, and they'll even eat help cut down on disease-carrying insects that are a real health threat.

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