Amateur Entomology

Want to know what I’ve learned about old houses in the last few weeks? You suddenly spend vast quantities of time studying things you never thought you would ever need to know. I’m not talking about building knowledge, per se. I think it is a given that I will need to read up on that! It is the other things that I didn’t expect. I spent weeks studying Victorian architecture and insulation options; months studying the history of the area and the history of the house, and now…it is bugs. Yes, creepy crawly things have now become my current obsession and focus in leisure-time reading. This is not something I look forward to, or even expected to do. Not that I am really squeamish, bugs don’t really bother me…unless they are ants. The problem is, the obsession. “What kind of bugs are these? Are they hurting my house? How do I get rid of them?, Are they a symptom of a bigger problem?” are the key questions I have been asking myself on encountering a new species.

First, there were the spiders. In this house, there are spiders everywhere! I mean, the mummified spiders in the root cellar were a dead give away that they would be an issue. Now, egg sacs turn up everywhere in the house, behind a door, behind a mirror…stuck to wolf fur. Fortunately, I have always liked spiders. I even had a sort of pet writing spider for a year that I would feed by  finding other bugs (mostly ants) and dropping in her web for her. This kind of makes me sound like a sociopath, but I promise, I am not. I just love science and was really attached to Charlotte’s Web. Anyway, the spiders, mummified or in embryo form, don’t really bother me.

Those things that look like cracks? Yeah, termite mud tunnels

Then there were the termites. Turns out there is quite a bit of termite damage in the house. Nothing majorly structural, or too serious, thankfully…mostly damage on some moldings, or through a few floor boards. See, these are more worrisome than the spiders because they actually can damage the house. They also look like albino flying ants, so that’s just scary. They made weird mud tunnels in the basement to climb up to the wood. See? They are definitely high on the creepy meter and must be obliterated. The problem is, they may already have been destroyed. Perhaps the damage was done before the previous owner moved in, when the house was last renovated. There’s no way to tell if the damage is old or new. If it is bad, and needs to be taken care of soon, they should start swarming in April, so…we’ll see.

Yes, those are wasps in my windows

Then, last but not least, are the wasps. They aren’t the type that damage the house, so not so alarming. So what’s the problem with the wasps? They show up in the weirdest places! My first encounter with them was when I removed the wood blocking the chimney in the dining room to clean it out. No evidence of what was to come. The next day, when I went back to finish, wasps started coming out of the chimney. Not flying, just slowly crawling, confused and searching, out of  the chimney. It was so creepy! I quickly stunned them with Tilex, and stomped them. Then, this week, when I was ripping the window moldings out, I found nests in the wall, beside the window casings. Several of them all in one cavity. We also found a huge nest in the wall beneath the plaster in the kitchen.

Maybe it is because the house is next to a swamp, in disrepair for 20 years, or on a Hellmouth. I keep running into all these insects that I am just not prepared to deal with! At least I have the upper hand on them. I can dial the phone and connect with the exterminator, so maybe that phone number is all the research I need.


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