18 March 2008

Unwelcome visitors

Insects are a part of daily life in India. I always seem to be in battle with some type of bug or other. Mosquitoes are a daily menace. They suddenly make their appearance at nightfall, and all the doors and windows have to be kept shut tight if I want to avoid being eaten alive. During the night an electrical repellent plugged into the socket keeps them from buzzing in my ears all night. If I’m outdoors I can always use a cream repellent to keep them from biting my ankles which they seem to particularly like.

Ants are also regular visitors. When we first moved in there was a continuous highway of ants moving from the front door to the kitchen. If as much as a breadcrumb fell to the floor, they would be on it in seconds. I learned to keep food in airtight containers and make sure nothing edible was lying around. But still the steady line of ants moving along the wall from the door to the kitchen and back continued… I tried to locate exactly they were going but failed to find the source of their interest. Finally in exasperation I emptied the cupboards and found them INSIDE the honey jar. How they managed to get inside, I have no idea. I got rid of the honey jar and traffic on the ant highway considerably lessened but didn’t completely cease. I spoke to my ever-resourceful landlady about this and she showed me a type of chalk I can buy which is used to repel cockroaches and other insects. I bought one and drew a chalk line in front of all the doors and windows, and along the kitchen wall where it meets the floor. This worked like magic – the ant highway was closed for good.

A couple of months later I noticed I had an itchy rash on my hands every morning. I put this down to those annoying mosquitoes. Then one day I noticed bugs on my curtains. Tiny brown-coloured bugs. I summoned my landlady again. Bedbugs was her diagnosis. BEDBUGS?! Ahhhhhhh! They really exist? I thought they were the stuff of bedtime stories and seedy hotels. How did they get into my house? This new contingent of unwelcome visitors sent my landlady into a tizzy who mumbled something about her daughter coming from the US the following week before hurrying off to spray her whole house with bug spray. Though we live on separate floors with separate entrances she didn’t want to take a chance.

After doing some quick research on the Internet, I put all the sheets and curtains in the washing machine and put the setting to 90 degrees. In the meantime I also went on a spraying frenzy in the bedroom. Thanks to the information on the Internet I learned how to identify the hiding places of these tiny critters. I also learned that they leave behind tiny black dots. I found these dots on some places on the walls but found no traces of them on the bed frame or mattress. That’s how I learned that ‘bedbugs’ are a misnomer – they don’t necessarily live in your bed, but often somewhere near your bed. In this case, they hid in the curtains during the day and feasted on me at night! I also found those tiny black dots on the electrical sockets and discovered they were also hiding inside the sockets, as well as in the space where the curtain rod is attached to the wall! It took a few days of frenzied spraying, but these unwanted visitors were finally eradicated for good!

My eyes were now trained to spot an erring ant or pesky bedbug resting on the ceiling but little did I know that we had other visitors who I would never even see. A tiny hole had appeared in the dining table and sawdust was coming out of it. I inspected the table and found another tiny hole. I had absolutely no clue what this could be, so again I consulted my landlords who told me to put dishwashing soap in and around the holes. This seemed to work: no more sawdust. But some time later, more holes appeared. Soon there was a whole line of tiny holes across the table! More Internet research and a call to a pest control company exposed the nature of our latest visitors: wood borers! The pest control people smeared a smelly varnish type of substance all over the top and under the table. This seems to have worked.

Thank goodness that the creepiest insect of all – the cockroach (in India these are the length of my thumb with long twitching antennae!) is a very rare visitor. On one or two occasions in the mornings I’ve found one lying inert on its back in the kitchen, but thankfully this happens very, very rarely.

Geckos are more welcome. I have no idea how they get into the house; they must squeeze in through the windows or walk through the door when I’m not looking. If it wasn’t for the strange clicking sound they make, I wouldn’t know they were there. They’re harmless, kind of cute, and most importantly, they eat other bugs – so they can stay for now!

1 comment :

Jen Kumar said...

Critters and bugs! I have had my share of experiences in India too!!!
About gecko be careful they don't get into food.. or crawl above where you're eating or near or even on your plates (possibly why people I knew often rinsed their plates before eating though they had been cleaned already) they leave behind poison...once in the hostel a gecko fell in my friend's plate! A frenzy broke out!
And for geckos they say empty egg shells should keep them away. Don't wash the eggs shells out it seems. Cleaned egg shells have no effect. My sis in law does this and for the most part the geckos are few and far between..
Cockroaches.. I wonder if they come out the hotter it is.. In May when we are in Kerala.. they seem to be in certian places, even crawling on people! That freaks me out!!