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A pest is a pest in the desert of Arizona or the swamps of Florida

Yesterday I saw three cockroaches in our house. It was the first time I've ever seen any roaches in here, and seeing three of them is very worrisome. I should note that it might be one roach that I saw three times. I failed to kill him the first two times but nailed him on his third appearance. So today I'm on a mission to arm the place with roach-killing devices.

Arizona does not have those Fiat-sized roaches that live in Florida, thank heavens. These are smaller, less frightening than those monsters. But they're roaches! Pests! To war! We don't have bomber-sized mosquitoes here either, but the ones we do have often carry West Nile virus. Not all mosquitoes bite but all skeeter bites itch. They are pests for that reason alone.

The western states have mice and other furry little beasties that carry the hantavirus. While I've mostly taken a mostly "live and let live" attitude to furry critters, the hantavirus is truly scary. We don't have mice but if we did I'd still have a hard time killing them even though they do carry a virus that begins with flu-like symptoms and can result in organ failure and death. I would rather have a free-range, mouse-eating snake in my house than have to personally do-in the mice: The Circle of Life and all that. When I lived in my tin tent (mobile home) in Florida, there was good ol' Sidney, the rat snake who seldom got into the house but tirelessly patrolled under and outside the structure, dining on mousies. Sidney and I had a symbiotic relationship.

Being environmentally aware, I don't favor spraying poisons around in an indiscriminate way. There are better ways to deal with mosquitoes. (Florida may be an exception. Living in the swamp in Florida, I became convinced that they were an alien invasion.)

I don't like the chemicals sprayed on nearly everything we eat either. When my family lived in northwest Illinois, we had a big vegetable and herb garden. No chemicals. We ordered ladybugs from the Whole Earth catalog, guaranteed to gobble up the larvae of various insects that thrived on our veggies. But we did have a few dinner crises involving cabbage-worms. Broccoli is in the cabbage family and it provides a feast and cover for the little green worms. My children came across the occasional worm in their broccoli and reasonably assumed that since they saw that one, there must be hundreds of others they had not seen. They persisted in carefully dissecting every serving of vegetables for years.

The kids freaked out about spiders, too. They never lived in Florida so they never saw golden orb weavers. What a beautiful, big spider. Walking into one of their webs strung between trees was a little like walking into a volleyball net. They're just a really big sort of the garden spiders we had in Illinois.

To me, pests are annoying or threatening critters. Don't get me started on big pests … those reputed to be humans. That's too much of a taxonomic problem.

Sheila Stoll is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. Write her at PMB No. 309, 7904 E Chaparral Road, No. 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.

A pest is a pest in the desert of Arizona or the swamps of Florida 10/24/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 10:42am]

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