Monday, February 11, 2013

Personal Climate Change II: Florida's Nonhuman Inhabitants

More on the differences between Florida and Kentucky. I mentioned the differences in climate, but there are also differences in the creatures you find here.

The good part: Florida has an amazing variety of birds. Many birds pass through the Bluegrass on their way south, but guess where they're headed to? They join birds from all over the place, sort of like the mix of tourist nationalities at Disneyworld. 

Egrets are cheeky. You'll see them along the shoreline, but I've also seen them at busy street intersections miles from the beach. The arched neck gives them a certain dignity, and I've often pictured them as little old ladies waiting for their turn to cross.

One of our friends in Tarpon Springs.
Anhingas are beautiful. They look like cormorants, but smaller. Gwen and I see them when we walk the Howard Park Causeway. They sit on the rocks, looking for leaping fish or holding their wings out to dry them. 

We also enjoy seeing the sandpipers and the red-winged blackbirds, but could do without the gulls. They are exactly like the ones in Finding Nemo. People rarely take food to Howard Park Beach twice. The little bastards will swoop down and take a hot dog right out of a kid's hand. They'll chase you if you run, too.

Now for the not-so-good: you probably know the association between Florida and alligators. In the water, Florida grows some large amphibians. On land, though, the story is different. The trees and rocks are filled with incredibly cute little geckos and anoles. The reason they're so small is because the insects and rats eat them before they get bigger. I'm convinced of it.

When you go into a Wal-Mart, a Publix, or even the Dollar Tree in Florida, you'll find a great variety of plastic bags and containers. Those aren't for tourists planning to picnic at the beach (a bad plan for the reason I gave above). Those are for Floridians trying to protect their food and goods against the waves of local vermin.

Florida cockroaches are huge. The euphemistic term for them is 'palmetto bugs', but they're roaches. Even Orkin agrees. Regular cockroaches run away when you turn the kitchen light on. These guys blink up at you and wonder what you want.

I realized I was getting blasé about them when my brother visited and one crawled through the crack in the doorjamb. He became more and more disconcerted while I was speaking, and then pointed out the roach.

"What is that?"
"It's a roach. They're pretty big here."
"Oh, my God."

Our buddy crawled away. A few minutes later, we heard a screech and a thump from the other room. My sister-in-law squashed him with a book. She had to protect the dog.

Aren't you glad this isn't a picture
of what I'm talking about now?
Ants. Ants, ants, ants. All types, all sizes. Everywhere. In the sand outside, between the rocks, crawling into the house. We had a swarm in the living room last week, and I did the flamenco dance of death. Had to sweep the floor twice before Mother hosed the room with Raid.

The rats. What can I say about the rats? Rats in Kentucky gnaw holes in potatoes and bags of flour. The rats here ate through the plastic and rubber lines of Mom's dishwasher. Twice. They also ate the mattress in the sofa bed and left rat poop behind. They caused a major water leak behind the refrigerator; the ice maker hadn't worked for years, and we found out why.

They're smart, too. Gwen has set traps with bacon, peanut butter, cheese, and lunch meat. She even tried strawberries. Little shits learned how to get the food off the trap without getting caught. The feral cats outside are no help - I think they're afraid of them.

We're going to have to call an exterminator and see if he can do something about getting the rats out of the house. Then, my mother will have to have our handyman block and/or repair the entry points. Meanwhile, we're buying lots of Glad bags and plastic containers. And washing the dishes by hand.



Marian Allen said...

We have those palmetto bugs up here, too. I'll have to send you a copy of "The Dragon of Sullivan Hall". The cockroach scene is a TRUE STORY! lol

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Johnny Ray said...

They are large,and if you have a pool, well be prepared to do war.