Whacky Keys Wildlife

When I first moved to South Florida, I lived in complete and abject fear that I was destined to share my home with the dreaded Palmetto bug–aka the Florida version of a giant, disgusting cockroach.

“Everyone has them, battles them,” I was told over and over again by Fort Lauderdale friends.

Not this gal. I kept everything a bug would crave locked up in airtight containers–from dog food to sugar to salt and pepper. A cardboard box or container had less than a five-minute lifespan in my house before being tossed in the outdoor dumpster. Same with grocery bags.

The one time a Palmetto tried to make my place hers, she met an awkward death at the end of an almost-useless can of bug spray.

“They’re going to get in sometimes. It’s the tropics,” my great guy would calmly and annoyingly say when I threatened to torch our Key West house rather than live in what felt like the Palmetto Bug Hotel.

My discovery and purchase of a gallon-sized jug of Ortho “Home Defense–MAX,” however, was nothing short of a life-changing experience. I became empowered by the hand-sprayer attachment that allowed an accurate sure shot behind the stove and under the refrigerator. I became the hunter instead of the hunted based upon an “effectiveness guarantee” and a promise to “keep on killing” for months in between sprays.

It worked, sort of, in that we kept the invasion down to a weekly attack. But the Key West house, like Key West itself, was just another train-wreck movie that constantly replayed during our brief attempt to call the place “home.”

Now that we are back in the Upper Keys, however, I realize that those pesky Palmettos merely represent the front line of what lurks in these parts. Sure, they try to breach the outside perimeter I drench with my liquid gold “MAX” every two weeks (obviously, I don’t believe in waiting months between sprays), but they simply encounter the interior barrier that I re-saturate almost as often.

Which means, the only bugs I see in my place are the dead ones that never make it past the door jam or window sill.

Turns out, however, that my beloved chemicals don’t do much to scare off the rest of the Keys menagerie that clearly exists to torture me.

“I’m sure it just came in when we moved in,” said my great guy when he confessed that he had killed a scorpion in the guest bedroom while I was at work. Not very comforting, since he killed said scorpion three months after we moved in.

“How about that one?” I said a week later, pointing to the large black shape with the curly tail that dangled from the top of the opening to our outdoor laundry closet. (As an aside, what is it with Keys homeowners who think placing laundry facilities outside–so you can sweat to death in the heat or get drenched in a downpour as you fold your work clothes–is somehow a genius solution to limited-space issues?)

“What the hell,” said my great guy, who looked a little like a possessed crazy man as he swatted the life out of the thing, while I calmly sipped my wine from my rocking chair on our back deck.

Later, I soaked the laundry closet inside and out with my sprayable courage, even though the Ortho label said nothing about the product’s ability to slay scorpions.

I considered it real progress in my maturation process, however, that I didn’t pack up my belongings and move out the next morning.

“It was just a frog,” said my great guy, laughing, as he shared his afternoon escapade that had unfolded while I was, as always, at work.

I understand how, in most realms, the idea of a slimy frog perched on one’s toilet seat could be considered somewhat humorous. And upon hearing that said frog eluded my great guy for several minutes while it hopped down the hall and into the bedroom, with the dogs in hot pursuit of the thing–and who knew if it was poisonous–the image could elicit a chuckle.

Unless you are me. And every day you notice the ever increasing number of slimy frogs of various sizes invading your backyard and living under your house.

Squirt. Squirt. Squirt. What’s good for the Palmettos is surely good for all the rest of the stinging, hopping critters.

“Please tell me that’s a large mouse,” I said to my great guy one recent evening as I watched a long-tailed creature scurry up the trunk of the too-close-to-our-house-in-the-event-of-a-hurricane palm tree and perch on an overhanging frond and begin a two-minute stare-down with me.

He knew better than to answer that one.

But last night, when the same long-tailed creature got into a hissing match with the dogs, claws bared, I lost my mind and began screaming for my great guy to come outside and save us all.

Brandishing the red cover of our 14-inch grill like a gladiator’s shield, it only took him three seconds to slam it over the still-hissing whatever-it-was and trap it.

“Now what?” I almost cried.

“Take the dogs inside and close the door. You don’t want to be outside for this,” he said, calmly grabbing a two-by-four plank from under the deck.

Oh. Gross.

But at least it’s dead–and gone with today’s trash pick-up.

Squirt. Squirt. Squirt. Can’t hurt to spray a little more of the “Max” around the yard.

Just keep all lighters and matches away from me for a while.






13 responses to “Whacky Keys Wildlife”

  1. Angie Avatar

    If it makes you feel any better (and it probably won’t) friends of mine found a snake in their toilet. Seems even here in North Texas they like to get in and away from the heat. The plummer had to literally break the toilet in order to get the snake out. Don’t think there’s a spray for that. ; )

  2. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Angie–Yes, that definitely falls under the “It could be worse” category. Ugh.

  3. Deanna Avatar

    Was it a rat or a possum?

  4. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Deanna–We have a debate about that. I say rat. He says possum. Either way–a rodent you don’t want hanging around.

  5. Ex-Restaurant Manager Avatar

    When I lived in South Florida, my second floor apartment had two stately palms outside my living room window. Shortly after moving in, around dusk, I was sitting in the living room watching TV when a movement outside caught my attention. There were two VERY large rats climbing up the palm tree like a ladder. I was mesmerized and fascinated and disgusted. As it turned out, this was a nightly ritual, and if I was at home around dusk, I would keep one eye peeled for the vermin.

    Not much later, Hurricane Katrina made her initial US entry on this part of Florida. She rearranged many things, but only being a Cat 1, didn’t do a whole lot of damage. But, it did shear off quite a few of the trunk lattice-like appendages. And the ladder was no more. And I missed my nightly visitors. Even though they were gross and disgusting.

    No point here, but I can sympathize. I do get a monthly visit by a palmetto bug here in the panhandle, but I swat it with a towel and stomp on it. These visitors, I can do without.

  6. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Ex-Restaurant Manager–In their horrible way, palm-tree-climbing rats are fascinating. And funny you should mention a hurricane as a means to a quick and effective end to vermin habitats….I was just thinking today, as I watched Tropical Update on the Weather Channel, a Cat 1 or 2 could conveniently rearrange and relocate much of what I would not miss. And then I’d take care of what was left with another gallon of Home Defense.

  7. mur Avatar

    I awoke one night to hear a definite splashing coming from the bathroom. Annoyed, I yelled out at our dog to stop drinking out of the toilet. She stirred from her sleepy state at the foot of the bed, confused – whereupon it dawned on me that if she was in bed, someone else was taking a midnight swim.

    So I sent my dear husband (also in a sleepy state) to investigate. For the only time in the nearly 35 years I’ve known him, I heard him scream like a girl. He had discovered the large sewer rat who must have slithered through the city’s mains, up our pipes, and up into our house.

    His solution? Slam the lid and flush! It worked like a charm – instant Rat-B-Gone.

    It still gives me the creeps.

  8. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Mur–Oh no, no, no! Love his fix. I am not sure I would have thought of that in my panic.

  9. last one home Avatar

    technically a possum is a marsupial–and very dangerous if cornered

  10. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    last one home–right, marsupial. As for dangerous, so I have heard over the past few days.

  11. joeinvegas Avatar

    That bug defense stuff doesn’t work on our Vegas ‘water beetles’. (big black cockroaches). Rats in the yard too, but nothing like San Diego with all the free fruit in trees.

  12. Kim Ayres Avatar

    The only rodents we’ve had to cope with are the occasional mouse – I wrote about my first encounter here – http://kimayres.blogspot.com/2006/06/mouse-slayer.html

  13. YonoSenada Avatar

    Beware of scorpions crawling in your shoes. They seem to love to hide in them. Always check them before you stick your feet in. I learned the hard way. Great post!