Monday, March 9, 2009

A Bug the Size of a Mouse?

I made a cake for DH's birthday last week and it was a success. I also encountered -- in my bathroom -- one of the not-so-wonderful local species: a palmetto bug. As to whether or not the outcome of that meeting would be defined as a success, I believe it probably would depend upon your viewpoint. Suffice to say, the bug probably would not agree with defining as a success.

If you've never been to the Gulf Coast, you probably have no idea of what I'm talking about. A palmetto bug is like a roach. a GINORMOUS roach. These puppies are about two inches long and they are nasty. They normally live outside, and they don't seem to be attracted to the kitchen like a cockroach would; they go for the closet, or the bathroom, or the bedroom. Oh, and they can fly. There are all kinds of stories about them flying around and tangling in long hair. Yikes!

I still shudder when I think about the first time I encountered the horrid little beasties. I was about 10 years old and spending the summer with my grandparents in Florida. I stuck my foot into my tennis shoe and felt something odd in there. I pulled my foot out and shook the shoe and not one, but two palmetto bugs fell out of it! Naturally, I screamed the house down and my grandmother came and killed them, but to this day, I never put on a shoe without shaking it first.

I had almost gotten over my palmetto bug trauma by the time we first moved to Houston 12 years ago. However, we had only been living there for a few weeks when I heard a sound that I originally thought was a mouse in the closet. DH and I had just gone to bed and I kept hearing rustle, rustle rustle. He refused to do anything about it, but I couldn't sleep, so I got up and turned on the light in the hall, thinking that if it was a mouse, then the light would at least drive it to another room.

The rustling didn't stop when I turned on the light, which seemed kind of strange. That's a pretty bold mouse, I thought, and I went to look in the closet. It wasn't a mouse; it was a palmetto bug. But it was easily as big as a mouse! Naturally, I screamed the house down -- and nearly caused DH to have a heart attack since I was only standing about 3 feet away. He tried to kill it and missed and it scuttled behind some shoes, so he told me to go back to bed and he turned off the light. I could hear it in there going rustle, rustle, rustle. The dog could hear it too, so he started barking. Thank heavens for Alexander the pekingese because it was his barking that bugged DH enough to finally get up and get rid of the palmetto bug (Yes; I know I should have done it, but I'm terrified of the stupid things).

Fast forward 12 years. I was putting something in DH's closet and Pippin the pekingese started barking hysterically. (Apparently pekingeses don't like palmetto bugs either) I turned around to find Pippin and Tabitha (my kitty) facing off with a huge palmetto bug. I stood there for a moment, hoping Kitty would do something to it, like whack it with a paw or something, but she was totally useless.

Well, damn, I thought. My pets aren't going to do anything, so I'm going to have to kill it. Then, I looked around the room for something I could use to do it with. I was in the bathroom, which I had just cleaned, so there wasn't anything lying around that I could hit it with, and it was between me and the door. Of course, I was barefooted, so I couldn't just step on it. I had a reassuring thought: What if it starts flying around? Yikes!

Then I saw the bottle of Windex that I'd used to clean the mirrors. I could hit it with that, but it would be disgusting. But I wondered, what would happen if I sprayed it with Windex?

I will not go any further except to say that while Windex is probably not a good alternative to an exterminator, it was sufficient for the task. I suspect, however, that the man who cleans our pool thinks I am a bit odd. I did not know he was out there until after I had got rid of the bug, but I am fairly certain that he heard me yelling, "Hah! Take that, you frikking b#####d!" because when I saw him (the pool man), he asked if everything was quite all right. I gave him what I hoped was my best Mona Lisa smile, but I think he is still wondering.


Nanci said...

LOL! I've never seen one of these horrid creatures, but your story has me dying laughing. It sounds like you and I are two of a kind when it comes to bug encounters. I cannot deal with them.

Glad to know Windex works - I typically end up squirting things with hairspray or room freshener, which also work, btw :-)

I wonder if you'll get a discount on the pool bill next month, since you're now providing entertainment?

Taminator said...

You are so funny! I discovered the joys of Windex and bugs a couple of years ago when I had an ant invasion in my classroom. They won't allow us to spray bug spray and if I hadn't done something, a small fifth grader might have been carried off. So I grabbed the Windex I used to clean monitors and sprayed the hell out of the ants. It works.

Janna said...

That's hilarious! When John and I were dating in college, I shared an off-campus apt. with a friend. The apt. building was old and run down and we had all kinds of bugs. I'm sure we saw a couple of palmettos, but I never knew what they were 'til now. We also had cave crickets, which can jump as high as your knee and are nearly impossible to swat or step on. The first time I saw one jump, it scared the hell out of me! More than once, John walked in the door to the tune of me cussing out some big thing I was trying to kill.

tamsaunt said...

When I was living in Nigeria, we had the African version of a palmetto bug, but as with so many things African, it was bigger and meaner. They had pinchers and would bite you if you got too close. We put the legs of our beds in pans of water to keep them from crawling up into the bed. Of course, he had to put bleach in the water to keep the green mold from growing rampant.

As you know, here I just have brown roaches that can get pretty big. I seldom see them usually just before the exterminator is due for his quarterly visit. We had one the other night and Mr. Fred pounced on it and had it in his mouth before I could catch him. He killed it, but fortunately I was able to make him drop it before he could eat it. Ugh!

wendmills said...

I'm just glad to know that I am not crazy. Years ago, after hurricane Fran, we had terrible water damage in our home and got them. I saw a couple of them that were at least three inches long. People tell me I exaggerate the size, but my husband saw them too. He could not believe the size of these things. Incredible!! Since then I have encountered other folks with them. Most written info on them say they grow to 1 1/2 inches long, but I know for a fact they can get much bigger. I'll keep the windex handy just in case we have more visitors. Thanks for the blog. I always like to find out that I am not the only one!

Anita said...

Yea, I went into my bathroom in the dark one night and caught a whiff of cigarette smoke. I thought 'we don't smoke in the house'. Weird. I flipped on the light and there was one of those bad a$$ palmetto bugs who rode in on his roach bike, decked out in his leather jacket, smoking a cigarette. He saw me and I saw him and it was on.
They literally will stand you down. The only bug I know that fights back. He and I went at it. It was chains and knives and punches. I won. Finally.
Of course I had to leave him to prove to hubby to see the next morning (and for him to bury him).
They really are some bad bad roaches. Like nothing I have ever experienced until we moved here.
It's so bad this year the roaches are starting gangs.
I blame the parenting.

Anonymous said...

Well it's definitely spring here in Houston. I found a dead one upside down on my wood floor 3 days ago..and I made the mistake of doing some late night cleaning last night and guess I woke up one that was under my kitchen sink. He was BY FAR the largest one I've ever seen and I've lived her for over 20 yrs! Yes, they are vindictive, and do fly. This one didn't run under the fridge but boldly flew right at me sending me screaming into the living room in search of something to kill that $%^&*@! As soon as he touched the floor he was TOAST...thanks to a flip flop...but I know my husband won't believe me when I tell him it was 5 inches long I left him under the shoe! lol. One thing about these bugs is that they really don't want your food or crumbs like those standard little roaches (GROSS!!!!), but want a damp humid place to hang out. I just bought that perimeter bug spray so I'll let you know how it goes. One thing I CANNOT do is sleep in a house that I know has one of those big $%^&*%@ in it!

marewrath said...

there were palmetto bugs in south carolina, too. last night there was a bug about twice the size of one in my house, and i have no clue what it was. it literally run INTO my cat, and he didnt even twitch, which confuses me because he sees a mouse or a birdthe size of a pigeon and hes at it in a heart beat--and this thing was at least twice the size of most mice

marewrath said...

(im in austin)