Surprise Roommates

I recently had one of my doors replaced at home.  It was quite the operation as they ripped off the indoor trim, then pulled out screws and loosened the old door and its frame before wrestling the new one in place.  When the frame was gone, the naked beams inside between the walls and siding were exposed, and there, crawling about on the wood, were now-active clusters of (Asian) ladybugs (which just proved to me how much space there was around the old door, in case the cold air blowing in around it wasn’t enough proof).

 Bat that the cats found in my farmhouse in Michigan.  

Bat that the cats found in my farmhouse in Michigan.  

Isn’t it amazing how critters can get into our houses through the smallest of cracks?  Ladybugs, box elder bugs, spiders, ants, mice, bats, snakes, shrews, flies, wasps, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons…I’ve had them all over the years, and no doubt you have, too.  Now, obviously, if one has raccoons and squirrels getting in, one must have some significant gaps somewhere, but some of these animals really don’t need a lot of room.  Take a bat, for example.  A little brown bat only needs a quarter-inch gap to crawl through.  A quarter inch!  If you’ve ever watched a cat squish itself under a dresser, then maybe this isn’t too impressive, for little browns are not terribly big to begin with.  But even so, a quarter inch is pretty darn small.

Some critters, like carpenter ants and termites, and yes, even the red squirrels, chew their way in.  Not too much you can do about that, I guess, but patrol your house and be vigilant.  The rest, however, have got to find the nooks and crannies that result from either poor construction or the house settling and aging over time.

Back east, the worst we had, infestation-wise, was the yearly appearance of cluster flies.  No one in Michigan had ever heard of these – do you get them here in Illinois?  These would show up in late winter/spring – hundreds of flies that would cling to ceilings and windows and just sit there in an apparent stupor.  One would go around with a vacuum cleaner and suck them up, but they are so logy that you could pluck them off with chopsticks if you were so inclined.

It wasn’t until I moved to the Midwest (Michigan and here) that I discovered the joys of box elder bugs.  At my old MI farmhouse, they covered the outer walls and front porch by the hundreds on warm spring days (and lurked on the porch all winter long).  Any visitors we’ve had at Severson Dells since last fall have enjoyed watching the ones that took up residence indoors last October and have yet to leave.  I wonder what they do for food and water all winter.  I did find one swimming in my mug of water when we had a volunteer gathering in our classroom last month, so perhaps they wait for serendipitous sustenance appearances.

I think the oddest creatures I’ve had visit my abode were the snakes and shrews.  Okay – singular snake, but I have had more than one shrew.  Although, now that I think of it, we did have a snake in the ladies’ room toilet here at Severson Dells last fall (it was a very small brown snake, which is harmless, so no one panic).  No idea where it came from or how it got there, but the others I only discovered when my cat(s) brought them to my attention…as gifts…nearly dead.

When it comes to spiders in the house, here is a little tidbit perhaps you didn’t know:  house spiders will not survive if you put them outdoors.  They have evolved with humans over the centuries, so their natural habitat is your home.  Of course, not all spiders in your house are house spiders, and some eight-legged visitors would do just as well outdoors, so learn to identify them and then feel free to evict them.

I find most unexpected household visitors, of the four- to eight-legged variety, have high entertainment value for the cats.  Usually in the middle of the night.  And it’s not like the cats actually do anything about the visitors, other than play with them.  If they removed them from the house for me, that would be worth it, but no, they just chase them around, knocking over knick-knacks, clawing at paintings on the walls, scratching under doors, and staring off into space left…right…left…right…  I sometimes wonder if they are watching ghosts, ‘cause there are times when they are watching things that, as far as I can tell, are just not there.  I could tell you a few stories!

So I guess this just goes to show that we are never alone.  And with warmer days on the way, we are bound to discover a few more roommates that we didn’t know we had.