Houseguests, of the permanent and preventable kind

Today, we’re going to deal with critters.

The first, and cutest, are butikis. (boo-TEA-keys)
butiki
They are basically geckos, but are a different member of the gecko family than the geckos of the Americas. They behave the same way, though, scurrying up walls, dropping their tails if they feel threatened. They are fairly clean animals and, most importantly, they eat insects. They are also called house lizards, which is fitting, as it doesn’t matter where you live or how nice your home is, it will have a population of butiki within it. They are virtually impossible to keep out of the home, so don’t sweat them. Did I mention they will eat the insects in your house? We saw one eating a roach once. They also dine on moths and mosquitoes.  The worse they will do you is scare you when they unexpectedly run out from behind something. There are lots of superstitions regarding butikis. One is that if one falls from the wall, you will get a visitor soon. Make of that what you wish. They have a fairly distinctive call, that is a series of 10 or so loud outbursts, like a cross between a click and an “ah” sound. Despite what some photoshopped pictures online would suggest, they do not grow to be several feet long. The biggest one I’ve ever, EVER, seen is currently living in my kitchen and is slightly less than an inch wide and about 8 inches long. Most are considerably smaller than that. They lay eggs that look just like chicken eggs, about a centimeter in size. I have never seen the eggs in our house, but come across them from time to time in the garden or on the branch of a tree.

Second, as in about anywhere on the planet, there will be spiders who will take up residence in your home. I have just done some basic researching online and it seems that there is a small presence of venomous Redback spiders from Australia here in the Philippines. They are part of the same family as Black Widows. Handily enough, they have a red stripe down their back to help with identification. Aside from that, there is a relative of the tarantula you might encounter if you spend time in the jungle. Otherwise, the majority of spiders here are harmless to humans. You may encounter some that are monstrously large and trigger your “kill it with fire” response, but since most of the spiders here will do an excellent job at helping you keep your home free of mosquitoes and flies, I encourage you to just leave them be. We tend to leave all their webs alone in our house unless the webs are getting a bit out of control or we are getting ready to throw a party.  If I were to find one of the giant ones inside my house, like the one that loads as the photo on the top or side of this blog from time to time, I would probably try to remove it to the wild. Because, frankly, mashing that sucker would have made a giant mess. It was over an inch wide.

Third, if you aren’t careful, you can end up with a booming mosquito population in your home. Do not keep standing water anywhere in your house.  (It is best if you do not have any standing, untreated water on your property.) This includes water in vases for flowers. You can have fresh flowers, just change the water daily. If you are a fan of those little plug-in fountains, make sure you add a bit of bleach to the water and completely change the water every few days just to stay on the safe side.

Ants will invade your home in a impressively fast amount of time. The ants here are tiny, and their scouts are good. Leave some food out on the counter and within an hour or two, you will find a well-established trail of ants leading from the nearest ant-sized ingress point to the food. The good news is that once you remove the food supply, word seems to travel just as fast that it’s not worth making the trip anymore and they make their way out. You can help them along with a broom, though. Any carbohydrate-rich food item runs the risk of being found, even if it is in store packaging, so you will want to keep as much of it as you can in thick zip-top bags, or air-tight plastic or glass containers. In a pinch, you can also store things in your fridge. Just keep in mind that baked goods tend to get stale in the fridge. It’s worth investing in some plastic containers for your bread, or keep it in the freezer and defrost it as needed.

Roaches are obnoxious. Again, keeping food put away and having no standing water out can keep their numbers down, but they are a constant annoyance. You can get various forms of roach killers at grocery and hardware stores here, but it’s just an ongoing battle.  Make sure you or your helper is getting back into all the areas of your house at least once a month to give it a proper sweep-out. They like to reproduce and hunker down in places that don’t get disturbed too often. I was sure we had a small animal trapped in a never-used closet in the basement of the first house we lived in, because I kept hearing movement from within. It turned out to be a colony of cockroaches! The. Horror. My husband and driver went at them with roach spray and swept it all out, but seriously, heed my warning about making sure everywhere gets cleaned out at least a few times a year. Keep lids on all your trash and get it out of the house before you go to bed at night. Make sure all crumbs are swept up off the floor or wiped off the counters. You may always have a handful of roaches lurking around, but you can prevent them from getting out of control.

Some people have their houses treated for insects on a regular basis. Some guys will come by and spray all around (and in, if you want) your house in the form of a massive gas cloud. Our neighbors in our last house did this, and the gas cloud would cover and invade our house as well. (Two houses for the price of one!) I noticed no fewer mosquitoes, ants, or roaches in that house than in any of the other houses we’ve lived in, which suggests to me that the fumigation is not worth the money and the lung damage, but it’s up to you. During the rainy season, some communities will gas the sewer system to try to keep mosquito populations down to prevent the spread of Dengue.

Rodents are another invasive species. I do not know of any that have made it inside of any of our houses, though it may be that I am living in blissful ignorance. (I am ok with that, really.) We did, however, have rats outside our last two houses. If you have any fruit trees in your yard, keep the fruit harvested and clean up any that has fallen to the ground each day. It can help keep the rat population down. It wouldn’t hurt to have a tomcat, though. Chances are good that you will have at least one stray cat in your neighborhood. Don’t be so quick to chase it off your property. If you start to notice rat activity in one area of your yard, chances are good there is a nest there. You may want to call a professional to handle that, or invest in a good deal many traps yourself.

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