Thursday, July 31, 2014

Big critters vs. little critters

Last week I wrote about the violence done intra-species, something most of the readers of the Reader Weekly abhor.  This week I would like to write about violence done inter-species, something most of us do everyday.

The prime violence we do to other species is eat their flesh.  Except for those who hunt or fish, we don’t participate directly in that violence.  Isn’t your mouth watering thinking about a hamburger or a plate of shrimp or …?  Mine is watering just writing this, and I’ve given up eating meat.  Not because of what’s done to the animal, but what the meat does to me.

The strongest practitioners of avoiding violence to other species are Jains.  Not only are they vegetarians, but they sweep the ground in front of them as they walk.  They do this so they don’t crush any insects in their path.  For more, see “Ahimsa in Jainism” in Wikipedia.

Few of us would go so far as to only walk and only on swept paths.  In fact, many of us think nothing of the killing of other critters, willingly or accidentally.

Think of our smeared windshields in the summer, especially when we drive in rural areas.  Are we going to drive more slowly so that insects have a better chance of getting out of the way?  I think not.  If a fly or bee gets in our car, we open a window to let it fly out; otherwise we could run off the road trying to smack it.

Some of us may brush mosquitoes or flies off ourselves rather than smack them,  Probably more of us give them a good whack.  At least that one won’t be biting us. Some of us put out bug zappers to attract all kinds of bugs, friendly and unfriendly.  I don’t know how effective these zappers are, but bigger ones can annoy neighbors with the constant ZAP! ZAP!

My favorite form of mosquito control is the dragonfly.  It is nifty to watch them darting around - up, down, and backwards.  A dragonfly can eat its weight in other insects in 30 minutes. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are more prolific and the two or three dragonflies will not get rid of them in our yard in any given night.

One set of critters that I am after now is hornets or wasps.  A hive has formed under the peak of a shed.  I didn’t notice until I went into the shed two weeks ago to get some tool.  Buzz! Ouch! Buzz!  Ouch!  I gave up on a task because I wasn’t willing to open the shed door.  This must be the sixth or seventh that has been around our cabin, probably the third in two years.

Last year I used some spray that shoots a stream of poison up to twenty-five feet.  I used it under the peak of our cabin and then at a hole nest right along a path I used.  The next day they were all gone.  Well, not quite.  After I sprayed the hole I covered it with dirt.  The next day there were a few confused hornets flying around:  “Our nest used to be here!”

This year the spray I used wasn’t so effective.  First, I used it with a screen hood that reduced my ability to see at dusk.  I think I missed the hive completely.  The next time I tried the stream almost petered out before it hit the nest.  The next day hornets were crawling all over the nest repairing it.  If the hornets are still there, we’ll try again this weekend.

Next up in pest size are mice.  I don’t mind them crawling around in the grass and eating thousands of insects, but I don’t want them making nests in our sheds.  I use “The Better Mouse Trap” from Intruder.  No bait, reusable, and generally no mess.  Just throw the carcass in the woods for predators of all kinds.  Unfortunately, there are a few Arizona/Texas style executions where I have a live mouse dragging around the trap.  Enough said!

A couple of years ago these traps were catching shrews.  I had never seen a shrew since I lived in Sweden in the seventies, and I’ve been setting these traps for over fifteen years.  I think I caught thirteen shrews that year.  Since then I’ve seen none except one scurrying through the grass a couple of weeks ago.

Next up in pest size are squirrels.  We had gray squirrels in our walls in Duluth until we cut down a tree that ran right up the side of the house.  When we had the bathroom remodeled, the carpenters also put a better vent in the attic.

In Brimson squirrels are not a problem for us, but a constant source of amusement.  They chatter and scold each other and us, and they chase each other, especially in mating season.

Squirrels are a problem for a neighbor.  They get in under his roof, and he shoots them with a 22. I think it would be easier to fix the roof.  After all, he is only making room for our squirrels to expand their territory to his property.

The biggest critters that are a problem are groundhogs or woodchucks.  They dig big holes that can trip a human.  Fortunately, we see most of them and fill them in again.  A bit of soapy water keeps the groundhogs from coming back to that spot.

Mel is a gentleman when it comes to ladybugs.  He coaxes them onto a piece of paper and then gently blows them off outside.

This was also published in the Reader Weekly of Duluth, July 31, 2014 at