Tuesday, July 7, 2015

local wildlife.

A few months ago I took the recycling out at night, and I saw what I could have sworn was a cockroach, scurrying across the driveway towards the fig tree. A month ago I saw one in the back patio, and shortly thereafter there was one in the kitchen (which I trapped and dumped in rubbing alcohol for later identification.

Now, I have been extremely privileged to live a cockroach-free life. A cockroach in my kitchen would normally worry me, except:
  1. There were no cockroaches when we moved in.
  2. There have been no cockroaches for the 2 years we've lived here with unchanged living habits (including a consistent lack of discipline about food on countertops).
  3. Most cockroach sightings were outside. And near the compost heap...
Being a city boy, I'm not used to thinking of cockroaches as outdoors animals, but why shouldn't they be? Our compost heap is full of earthworms and beetles and earwigs and once I saw a centipede and holy shit so many tiny ants--in fact, I've theorized that the compost heap keeps the ants out of the house, by constantly being the most attractive food source in the area. If cockroaches need food, warmth, and moisture, the compost bin should be the place.

When I found the cockroach in the kitchen, Anna immediately made up a batch of bait-poison (boric acid + maple syrup + water) and put it inside all the wall outlets and various crevices. The common understanding is that if you see a cockroach, it's because they've been crowded out of the hidden spaces and there are actually thousands more nearby; but I haven't seen one in the house since. I did spot a few in the patio last night, and one of them fled into our crawlspace; but I tend to think the one in the kitchen was either exploring, or just trying to get from one place to another.

(I am, of course, an insect pest professional. The idea that an animal evolved for living outdoors would prefer to stay outdoors doesn't seem like a stretch, though.)

We also had a brief incursion of tiny ants, and all of this spurred me to go do some maintenance on the compost bin, which was so full of densely-packed dirt that the bin itself was deforming out of its square shape, and it was really hard to get the lid on. Presumably the density made it harder for the residents to move around, and also harder for water to percolate through.

Water! Compost bins need water. We live in the Land of Very Little Rain At The Best Of Times, and we're in an epic drought. So I motivated to dig out the compost dirt--which, miraculously, used to be banana peels--and spread it around on various trees that looked like they could use the help, and then dumped a solid bucket of water into the remainder. (And then enjoying how easy it was to put the lid back on. The trees, for their part, seem to have perked up immediately.)

I think the drought has stressed the insects, driving them to the unusual behavior of coming into my house.

Go, insects! Live happy life cycles in the compost bin! I promise to give you water!

And I will poison you if you don't Then we can all coexist peacefully!

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