Sitting here at my computer, I am regretting sacking our local friendly huntsman spider and hoisting him (or her) outside to fend for himself (or herself) in the garden on his (or her) own.
The thing is, I’ve been encouraging my friends to leave the huntsmen alone – they do good for us! They eat the flies and other insects in our houses. And they are relatively harmless – the bite may hurt but you’re not going to die from it. So when a rather large huntsman appeared high up on our wall, I happily left him (I give up) there and tasked him with catching all our flies and mosquitoes.
He didn’t appear to be doing a good job, so when he, rather disconcertingly, took up residence in our ensuite and seemed to be peering when we were peeing, I decided it was time for eviction.
We have been recently plagued by clothes moths and I am now given to understand that huntsmen don’t eat moths anyway. Maybe I misjudged him.
What to do?
So we gave in and bought stuff that is apparently deadly for clothes moths. My discomfort, sitting where I am, arises from the fact that I can smell the moths killer a corridor away from the rooms where I put it. It is supposed to protect about half a cubic metre of space and has “a fragrant odour which leaves your wardrobe smelling fresh”.
Don’t believe everything you read! It stinks. Thankfully we don’t expect visitors to be staying in those rooms for a while. There’ll be time to air them out. Hopefully the moths will all have died.
But will it be better than allowing a huntsman to roam free and catch whatever he can?
My mother would put sachets of lavender, peppermint or cloves in the wardrobes. They made the clothes smell nice and I was never aware of unwanted insects buzzing around. Note to self: start growing these in my garden so I don’t have to pay through the nose for fancy packets. Cedar wood is also very fragrant and repels insects.
Most insect killers use pyrethrin or a derivative, which is a chemical originally extracted from chrysanthemums. It is not by itself harmful to humans. It works by disrupting neurotransmitters in insects that are not found in mammals, but it can affect aquatic organisms – fish and such like.
Citronella is not processed and is only effective for a short time because it is very volatile and evaporates away quickly. Synthetic products tend to last longer.
It is easy to apply insect sprays. They work by contact: the insect crawls over it or it is sprayed on top of the insect. It usually dies very quickly on contact. Regardless of what it says on the can, they don’t smell very nice – even the hypoallergenic ones.
But in using these, are we giving in to the quick fix – just a spray to take them away? We seem to live in an instant world – we want instant solutions with the minimum of thought and effort on our part.
I wonder if this quick fix actually works against us eventually. I notice the increasing incidence of asthma and allergies in the population and I wonder how much of that is due to our increasing dependence on chemicals to make our lives easier. As well as insecticides, we rely on a whole gamut of cleaning products and then fragrances to mask the smell of the cleaners.
Many pesticides actually have disclaimers that state that “if pesticides are not used correctly, they can affect human health or cause serious injury or death to the pesticide operator, other people or household pets “ , thereby admitting that there may be a health risk in the use of such chemicals.
Why are you attractive to insects – especially mosquitoes? Because you smell! There are many odours on human skin, many of which are very appealing to insects. A recent report in Australian Geographic (March – April 2018) claims that mosquitoes are responsible for the most human deaths per year worldwide, so it is good to be rid of them.
I’m sure you’ve tried your selection of sprays, lotions, citronella oil, even smoke from mosquito coils, most with a limited effect.
An intriguing report by Riffell and his team indicates that you could potentially condition mosquitoes to avoid you - by swatting them! It seems that mosquitoes hate air vibrations. The mosquitoes can apparently associate a person’s unique odour with the discomfort of air vibrating from the swatting, and this will put them off biting. (They seem to be more intelligent than some humans!)
Wonderful! But most mosquitoes only live for maybe 2 months max, so I would have to be training them all the time. Swatting them involves physical effort , which detracts from the conversation or activity I’m engaging in.
Bring back the spider!
Having the resident huntsman is probably the least invasive and effortless solution. It’s not a quick fix and one must wait for him to traverse the rooms. Also I need to warn visitors about his presence so they don’t freak out.
Maybe the insects that have become pests are a direct result of the fall – I suspect they were not pests in the Garden of Eden. How sin has permeated and complicated our lives!
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science and theology under her belt. Aira is a panellist for Young Writers and indulges in reading, bushwalking, volunteering at a nature reserve and learning to play clarinet. Aira is married to Bill and they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html