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Creatures that share our house

Just now I was sitting in my recliner, pondering the idea of writing about the creatures which, invited or not, share our house, when to make my point a brown marmorated squash bug (that’s “stink bug” to you) dive-bombed my head and flopped upside-down onto the end table.

I squashed it, pardon the pun, and indeed it did stink.

At this time of year, squash bugs, paper wasps, ladybugs and other insects, seeking a winter shelter, find a crack in our siding. If they stayed inside the walls we could live in peaceful co-existence, but no, some of them must come all the way inside, ending their days in hopeless buzzing, bumping against the hard invisible mystery of the window glass.

In the summertime, ants invade the kitchen in army columns, and fruit flies reproduce like mad in pails of vegetable peelings if we don’t put them outside in a timely fashion. High up in an outside wall, a swarm of honeybees established a hive a couple of years ago. I’d have to risk life and limb to get them out, so there they stay.

Insects aren’t the only creatures which seasonally enter or even permanently reside in our house.

As if to remind me that mice are regular invaders, a little while ago Fizz the cat trotted proudly through the kitchen, a deer mouse dangling delicately from his mouth by the tail. The mouse kept trying to jerk itself up and bite its captor, so Fizz dropped it and they played hide-and-seek among the potted houseplants. Louie, our loveable but not terribly brainy orange tabby, joined the game and cornered the mouse briefly behind a ceramic frog doorstop before our third adolescent cat, Flop, clamped Mr. Mouse bodily in his jaws and ran through the house, growling to warn the others away.

LIVING AS WE DO on the farm, up against the woods, neither Honey nor I get too exercised by indoor mouse chases, nor by finding, as we sometimes do, a disembodied chipmunk head staring accusingly at us from the living room carpet.

Last night I was scratching a dozing Fizz when the cat came alert, his eyes and ears trained in the direction of an upstairs dormer, from which I, too, detected faint squeaking noises.

“Do you hear the flying squirrels?” I asked Honey, who was reading a book in her adjacent recliner.

No, she did not, she said, intimating that I was hearing things again.

I asked her rhetorically why it is that I, with only one good ear, an ear which has been abused for years by chainsaw roar, can hear the tiny screeching calls of the flying squirrels in the roof, while she, who can hear the faint shoosh of a cookie tin being carefully opened two rooms away, cannot?

Perhaps not on that occasion, but she has heard them before, and knows as well as I do that flying squirrels have a nest in that dormer roof. We know that because occasionally one makes a wrong turn and emerges inside the house.

Flying squirrels have amazing abilities, big, adorable eyes, and the softest imaginable fur stretched between front and hind legs – loveable little Disney creatures in theory, but in practice, essentially flying mice. Chasing a mouse that can both run and fly is a reality that drives cats insane. The house is mayhem until the intruder is brought to heel or shooed out an open door.

HOUSE WRENS treat our house as theirs, and do not hesitate to scold us with an angry buzz-buzz-buzz when our proximity challenges that concept. If they limited their activities to building nests in the eaves outside, I’d have no problem with them. But when one finds its way inside the house (I have no idea how, maybe through the flying squirrel passage), we must go racing around with brooms and butterfly nets, trying to catch it and put it outside before a cat eats it.

The creature which probably causes us least concern in sharing our living space is the simple house spider. These are the spiders which give us cobwebs. I don’t know how they catch anything with their long, delicate legs and tiny bodies, stretching their frail and chaotic-looking webs over windows, in upper corners, across skylights, from basement ceiling joists, and behind appliances. They must eat, because they survive.

I guess that’s where all those gnats, flies, bees, and yes, even stink bugs, go.

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