Monday, May 31, 2010

The Dead

Why would anyone move out to the country, get five acres of beautiful land, and then spray the foundation of their house every month with pesticides for seven years? That's exactly what happened to the house we bought. So, even though it's been two months since the spraying stopped, beautiful bugs, spiders, monstrous mosquito hawks, milliipedes, hover flies, and bees fly around the house and die everyday. We find their lifeless bodies everywhere. Sometimes, I try to rescue the ones that are crawling around in a fog of poison and take them far from the house, hoping somehow they will be rejuvenated by good air. I suspect that they die anyway, that the pesticide probably destroys their nervous system, but I do it anyway.

Take this beetle for instance. I found it in front of the house on the cement. I took it to another part of the yard and told it to stay away for its own good. Weirdly though, it showed up again, fluttering its wings and lying on its back on the cement. I don't know why they don't listen to me. I'm usually very persuasive.
I suppose the thing that really bugged me the most though was this: a dead caterpillar. Somehow that seemed worst of all. Not even a chance to become the thing it was to become.

Why go live in the country if you're afraid of bugs? It makes no sense and the cost to critters is truly unconscionable. We have no idea how long the pesticide stays active. It seems obvious that it lasts longer than one month. We know that insects die everyday, but this wreck of bodies definitely seems out of the ordinary.

About the previous owners of our house: Some people are really jerks.


I wrote this Memorial Day piece five years ago. My father survived the wars, but he carried the scars with him the rest of his days.


  1. Possibly they sprayed for termites and the poor creatures you are seeing are collateral damage(yeah, I hate that phrase also).
    Wonderful piece on your father. What an amazing man and yes, he deserved the silver star. I loved the one you gave him.

  2. Poor critters. Termite spraying was my first thought also.

    I'm surprised that beetle did not listen to you.

  3. We have to treat for termites, but once time the exterminator talked mr. kenju into letting them spray the lawn for fleas and ticks. I couldn't go outside for a week - the smell was so bad - so I said never again!

  4. Interestingly, termites never occurred to me. Do people treat for termites on a monthly basis? We had our house tented once for termites. That's supposed to last for years.

  5. It drives me crazy(and the older I get, the crazier I get!) that man continues to act as if all things happen in isolation! We spray a little stuff here, and hope it will take care of that there...not stopping to reason through the notion of cause and effect. The butterfly beats his wings and winds blow around the world...
    We drill holes in the ocean floor and look what comes bubbling up.

  6. Here's hoping the pesticides wear off soon.

    My father is who I think of first on Memorial Day weekend too. :)

  7. We have had to spray in the Tucson house because we aren't there and having lots of bugs wouldn't be good especially since that's what scorpions depend on for their food supply. When I get back though I rarely find dead ones as it's inside, which is apparently tight other than the occasional cockroach (which I also do not want in the house as they come up through the septic system and carry bacteria or so I have been told). Outside, down there, we do put out poison occasionally for the ants that cut and carry off all the leaves of all the plants. I thought with the poison though they carry it back to their nests. Actually I am pretty ignorant on the specifics of any of it. It's always a hard call and that includes the packrat population around that house. Too many rodents are also bad for human health.

    In my home here, I only remove big spiders and let the small ones and daddy long legs live wherever they are. They do kill littler insects than they are and so death is the result there too. I see the little dried up carcasses in their webs which I also leave so am aiding and abetting killing, I guess...

    I sympathize with how you feel though as I don't like killing anything I don't have to kill.

  8. Yes. The scars go deep down, through the generations. So does the reverence for life. Your father knew the value of life, just as you and roger do.

  9. Beautiful piece about your Dad. Thank you for bringing it back.

  10. Your father was a remarkable man. What a wonderful way to honor his heroism and his memory.

    Spraying for bugs. We used to do it before we knew better. We had a horrific infestation of carpenter ants that went on for a number of years. I had to keep a vacuum cleaner beside my bed and vacuum before I went to bed and first thing when I woke up. They were all over my bedroom. So over the years we sprayed and sprayed, but when we complained that it wasn't working, the company offered to use a new, more potent poison. I said, "Wait a minute. What about the dogs and cats? What's it going to do to them?" So I called a pesticide hotline with the name of the poison and asked what the consequences would be for the animals. The lady asked "You have wet walls?" I said, "Well, the roof is appears to be leaking." Her reply, "You can spray for the next century and you won't stop the carpenter ants. You need to replace the roof to dry out the wood. That is the only thing that will stop the ants." At no little cost, the rood was replaced...and the ants disappeared. I have to say that even with the spraying we did, we did not have insect corpses lying around inside or out. I find that really weird.

    Are termites a common problem in the area? Is it usual to preemptively spray for termites?

    I'll echo the hope that the poison dissipates quickly and add that I hope there is no insect invasion that follows. That's an awful lot of lives taken out for no good reason.

  11. I think we're going to have to check with the pesticide company to see what they were spraying for. We've only encountered the heavy-duty tenting for termites, and not a monthly intervention. It could be that that's what they were doing, but we don't know. We would never spray pesticide monthly for anything. I just checked the paperwork left by the previous owners and noticed that they had the inside sprayed too. OMG. Now I'm really wondering what they were killing.

  12. From the Pest Control Website:

    The Monthly Control begins with a Clean Out. The Clean Out begins with an exterior application along with a sub area treatment and an inside application as needed. Each month thereafter, our Monthly Control consists of a foundation spray to help control the ants, earwigs and other crawling insects that come in contact with the treated area. In addition, the spraying of the eaves helps keep the unwanted spiders and wasps out of your hair. Cobwebs are knocked down to help keep the exterior looking maintained. Inside service is available upon request. We do not try to make any unrealistic claims that your property will be "pest free." Instead we focus on protecting your structure and the immediate perimeter. Your complete satisfaction is the goal of our service.

  13. Grrrr. That is the question: why move to the country if you hate the things that belong there? Our new neighbors just cut down 2 old old Coast Live Oak trees that were right in front of their hilltop house. I guess they were blocking the view (of which there is PLENTY in every direction). Oh, trees that sprouted 100 years before their grandfather was born, that took 50-100 years just to mature. Trees that were home to countless birds, mammals, insects and other invertebrates. Trees are so precious here in this dry grassland, and Coast Live Oaks are noble, ancient and endlessly giving of acorns, shade, oxygen, leaves and beauty. Why? Why? It is SO wrong. Born too soon in human form.

  14. lovely piece about your dad, robin.

    we don't spray for bugs. we tend to get spiders in the house, but they pretty much stay out of our way. we had a problem for years with little black ants -- every holiday, like clockwork, they decided they'd rather eat cat food and whatever else they could find in the kitchen -- but i think we've finally got all the little entryways sealed up.

  15. Re:sraying for bugs. After having the house tented prior to move-in, they had recommended a monthly perimeter spray to keep termites in check. Termites are especially bad at the coast.
    I'm not fond of bugs in the house.
    (That's my territory; they can have the outside!) I'm pretty sure the 6/8/+ legged critters will be around after we humans have vacated the premises. Short term, I hope your ecosytem will be in balance soon.

  16. "Pest" free. Oy.
    It would be interesting to have them define "pest" then see how much of that description applies to the human race as well.

  17. The pest control site says that they spray for all pests, even the beneficial ones. Their monthly program cleared away all spider webs and then sprayed the perimeter foundation and the eaves. Not sure how long it's going to take to dissipate, but we're hoping to start finding spider webs someday soon. It didn't occur to us that we haven't seen a single web since we moved in. That's some scary pesticide.

  18. Ugh. I wonder how long that stuff stays active. Sheesh! I'd say the monthly spraying was a case of overkill. The house that I rent in AZ is occasionally sprayed for termites - but definitely not monthly - perhaps once or twice a year. I don't think it kills other insects or spiders as I've found such things as a Giant Crab spider and some scorpions around the place.
    I hate spraying with a passion - the aftermath of living across the road from a sod farm that sprayed their lands several times a summer. Weirdly enough, the past two weekends, I have smelled pesticide or herbicide on the breeze and I'm sure it's coming from a house across the field that is only occupied on weekends -- the owners come out from the city to stay there and work on the yard like mad all weekend long. I'm so ticked off that I'm now being subjected to spray. They're probably scared of the ticks which are all around here, but if you keep your lawn mown, should not bother you. No, I will never understand city people who come out to the country and then destroy the local flora and fauna.

  19. when we lived in japan, we had a little problem with centipedes. this is definitely not a bug you want to find in the baby's crib!

    it turns out i really am a killer under certain situations. but the spraying wasn't massive amounts of pesticide. i shot 'em with a good dose of lysol or rubbing alcohol, which only stunned them, and then scooped and flushed. worked like a charm.

  20. remember how the Press Center was sprayed quarterly for pests? Remember those black widows hiding in the stacks of newspapers? Some pests you just don't want around. But a monthly application in your living space seems excessive.

    If I may play the devil's advocate, why move to the country and cut down trees? You found worth in doing that, maybe the previous owners found worth in spraying to kill bugs, for whatever reason. Just saying.

  21. lovely photos all the way down the page, we dont spray either.

  22. When I run into the "occasional" owner along our road who believes they are nature lovers, bird feeders, etc., but spraying insecticides on the lawn while the Robins are THERE.... I can't figure that one out........ Well said, here, and important, really.

  23. You know, because we have allergic family members, I had an exterminator spray a hornet nest shortly after we moved in. It was just one big nest, in a corner under the porch eaves. Was that three years ago?

    Six weeks ago I saw the first honey bee I've seen on this property since we moved here.

    Three years.

    Who knows what additional damage I did, or how long recovery will take?

    Bonsai seems fine despite the pesticide residue? You & Roger aren't feeling any ill-effects? Hope you're all fine.