Saturday, 15 September 2007

Things that creep and things that crawl

Trust me, the photo does not do it justice. You really need to meet a centipede face to face to understand the eww factor involved.

A few nights ago I was lying across my bed copying out a recipe on an index card when I noticed movement at the edge of my range of vision. I looked down and there it was, a centipede, coolly scuttling across the floor. Of my bedroom.

I'd be the first to admit I'm not good with these things. Innocent earthworms elicit an extreme revulsion reflex in me. It's something about that awful wriggling. The centipede is different, and worse, its movement a cross between a glide and a scuttle, with all those legs moving in waves, and the antennae swinging from side to side... Resisting the impulse to take to the hills, where in T&T these days I'm sure to stumble across much more dangerous creatures of the two-footed variety, I grabbed a slipper and squashed the thing flat.

I've seen them in the house before, but not for a long while, and never further inside than the living room - there's a small gap under the front door that's probably the entry point.

The raging fecundity of this place is not restricted to the flora but extends to the fauna as well. When we first moved to another house in this valley thirteen years ago we were taken aback at the sheer numbers and variety of birds - birds which were fatter and far more raucous than their suburban cousins. Then there were the frogs, especially at this time of year when the rains are here. The centipedes appear at this time as well as the ground becomes saturated. They start looking for higher ground, higher ground being the house.

The pale whitish house lizards are more numerous than ever, gulping happily at the rainflies and conducting their strange tail-grabbing and quickly-consummated courtship rituals on the kitchen walls, or falling off the rafters with an unnerving SPLAT! then running off none the worse for wear.

There's a bumper crop of slugs in the dead, sodden leaves under the julie mango tree, and the manicou (opossum) family in the empty lot next door seems to be thriving, despite what I imagine to be their frequent violent family disputes. (Our common types are not grey like in the shot above, but brown.) The bats are in their glory, and the snakes... well, to be honest I haven't seen any in the yard this year, but the valley teems with them. I'll recount my snake encounters in another post. Right now I'm too busy shuddering at the mere recall of my battle to the death with that [ugh] centipede.


kim said...

Uh, earwig -- that things pincher looking thing reminds me of the earwig butt.

I try hard to be tolerant of nature, but someone done gone and named a creepy thing "earwig" -- why? Creepy body, creepy name is not conducive to life is it?

And your comment on the big spider -- I'm totally okay with them, but that's because I don't live anywhere near their natural habitat . I think that one Brady Bunch episode (two actually -- two parter), ruined a generation's chances for tarantula appreciation . Poor Peter, who knew it was in the suitcase...

aka_lol said...

I couldn't write about a harrowing experience and make it fun to read like you did. My words always fail me when I need them the most. I also live in a similar part of Trinidad and I understand creepy very well.

Being human means being a superior creature and we are superior because we have more patents than any other specie on the planet. Being superior gives us the right to not only squish other species, except for farm animals because the have commercial value, but to also not report the incident to the nearest police station.

Nature is neither good or bad, it just is and how we react to slugs, snakes, centipedes and razor grass is understandable because we have no idea if they come in peace. If in doubt squish them out is my motto.

kim said...

our motto is if it's in it's own home
leave it alone, if it's in our house it's chances of survival are lowered.

Again, we don't have many deadly bugs or snakes in Wisconsin, so we end up tossing many bugs back outside. But fast and creepy is usually a death sentence because who can sleep knowing THAT thing is scuttling about?

Or if you are an earwig.

Matt said...


We recently bought a new house and it is crawling with spiders who we keep hoping aren't brown recluses - Missouri's most common dangerous spider. (If you aren't squeamish, enjoy this picture of a brown recluse bite.) We would be squashing them more frequently, but they're all we have to stop the absurd mosquito population. So we're squashing them inside, but leaving them be outside.

Also, slugs have decided that the front of our house is a great make-out spot. Very, very gross.

wordtryst said...

Kim, I've never seen an earwig, but the name alone is a huge turnoff. I imagine crawly little things wigging around in my ear. Not my ear, please! I love nature, but it really must stay outside.

aka_lol, you know whereof I speak. I think I'll steal your motto. As for the mapipires (deadly fer-de-lance snakes) that love to set up shop in our yard - I don't think they come in peace. And I don't care if they do. You're a poisonous snake, you come in this yard and it's lights out for you, buster.

wordtryst said...

Matt, NOOOO! Please tell me that's a Photoshop creation! You're just tweaking my chain, right?

If that's real, I'd be murdering spiders on sight. Acck.

We're having a slug problem right now, too. They're everywhere, but I haven't seen them making out yet. What a revolting sight that must be...

Kaz Augustin said...

Our kids' school is next to a patch of treed forest so they've been warned about monkeys (don't know why people like them so much; they're dexterous and vindictive things) and snakes.

We're looking into the idea of buying a house within the next couple of years, and J is worried about snakes. "If we build a wall, they can't get over, right?" "Yes they can," I reply. He's frantically searching for solutions.

Matt said...

Yep, that's real (though an admittedly severe case - probably untreated for awhile). Scary little buggers... but not tropical. You've got other concerns, I'm sure.

Kim's right, earwigs are creepy too.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I once saw a centipede at my Grandmother's house in St. Martin and almost fainted. My dad thought I had lost my mind and took care of it.

I do not like them in the house.

Hoodie said...

Hey, been lurking a while because I like the way you write and the things you post about.

I just have to say, YUCK about the centipede. I was actually fighting the gag reflex just looking at the picture. You poor, poor, dear

wordtryst said...

Kaz, I don't like monkeys either. I've only seen them at the zoo, and they always throw sh** at us, behaviour that I don't find in the least endearing. As for the snakes - I won't alarm you by repeating stories of snakes getting into strange places. I'll just say you're absolutely right about the wall.

Matt, we sure do have enough of our own...

Nyc/caribbean, I understand your reaction perfectly. It sounds a lot like mine - except there's no hero-dad around here to take care of critters, so I gird my loins and do it myself. My mom is pretty good, except with snakes. When the snakes come visiting I'm on my own.

wordtryst said...

Hi Hoodie,
Thanks for dropping by my blog - and for the empathy!

CeeDee said...

I know how gross centipedes are, living in T&T also means I also encounter them! :/ It's not surprising really, considering that our beautiful country is home to the largest centipedes in the world on Little Gasparee(Centipede Island). It's funny that I came across your blog today, just when I wrote about mapipires also!

Btw, if people think your photo gross, what will they think of this?

Wordtryst - Liane Spicer said...

CeeDee, AGGGHHHHH! HORRIBLE! I've heard of those giant centipedes but haven't come across any that large, thank heavens!

Welcome to the blog, fellow Trini!