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The Skinny By Elaine Langlois

Ladies Guide to Household Pests

The curious scratching in the kitchen. The busy scrabbling in the walls. The steady stream of paw traffic across the ceiling. That's not the house settling, sister. And those jumbo-sized insects in the kitchen aren't crickets. As impossible as it may be to believe of someone with your looks and adjusted gross income, you have pests.

The world can be divided into people who handle pests, people who are pests, and people who can't abide them. We all have a place where we draw the line. Example: anything that looks like a ladybug, you catch and put outside. Anything that doesn't look like a ladybug, you let fend for itself. Major exception: cockroaches, for which there will be no mercy. This is where you send in your three-year-old, wearing Daddy's work boots.

Tackling the occasional pest on your own is a decidedly low-tech job. General pest-clearing equipment: a clear plastic container and a piece of cardboard. Clap the container over the pest, edge the cardboard under, and put outside in nature.

Ants. The thing about ants is, they don't give up. Like the income tax people or guys you don't want to date. Discouraging the ants with chili powder or your least favorite designer fragrance is only half the battle. You want to encourage the ants to go someplace else. How about a trail of Karo Syrup to the apartment of that annoyingly attractive lass across the hall?

The hottest trend in ant control is to get a pet that will eat the ants. A horned lizard, a Jumping Spider, a grizzly cub, or your basic, trusty anteater.

Rodents. I would like to tell you that having a cat, or maybe six, would ensure that you will never be bothered by rodents in any form. But sadly, this is not the case.

My cat is terribly adept at bringing me rodents, or parts of rodents, from outside. But just try to get him and his compatriot cat that died last year to round up the squirrel in the kitchen, which is maybe 7 feet wide (the kitchen, not the squirrel) and that's a different story. And I won't even bring up my friend who has six cats and a mouse with a lot of chutzpah and a very large life insurance policy residing behind her dishwasher.

Doing a Nora Jane. When plates of food seem to convey themselves off the counter, or swarming termites drop from the ceiling into your meals (so everybody has to wear hats), it's time to seek professional help. Nora Jane is a recurring character in the works of Ellen Gilchrist. You do a Nora Jane by calling Orkin and telling them you have money to give them if they come spray your house now with everything they've got. This might be a good time to test those gas masks you bought in case of a terrorist attack.

Pest control on a budget. If your budget is tight, you can call someplace with a name like Rid O' Critterz, which will result in the eventual appearance in your driveway of a battered pickup and a man named Lafe. Lafe will remove the bat from your bedroom in two seconds flat, for a mere $80. He "won't have time" to go up to the attic to see if there are any more bats. But he will have time to lean against the pickup with his arms folded, stare up at the attic vent, and intone wisely, "Lady, you got bats." He will also have time to favor you with his life's story, including what he does with all the snakes he catches (chucks them under the double-wide) and mice (chucks them under the double-wide).

Or maybe they will send a fellow you will come to think of as Squirrel Boy. Perhaps a few bricks short of a full load, but he knows his small mammals. "It's a male," he'll say, hoisting a cage with a screeching, scrabbling squirrel over his head, a shower of peanut shells cascading to the floor. And you'll think, maybe not all the raccoons, squirrels, and groundhogs that Squirrel Boy catches make it to the state park, where they're supposed to live. Maybe some of them go home with him, and they become his little friends.

My enemy, my entrée. Before we pick up our cans of Raid and our .22s again, maybe we should pause a moment and think about the benefits of household pests. There are a few. They have given us … romantic encounters with the Orkin Man™. An excuse to hire other people to do our cleaning for us. And a low-cost, low-carb, lowfat source of healthful protein, this summer's hottest party fare: roasted honeybees, grasshopper kabobs, mealworm tofu salad, and cicada smoothies.

© 2004 Elaine Langlois

© 2004 Elaine Langlois