Waging War

The spider in my pan.

The spider in my pan.

I swear, this year I am waging war on the bugs in my room. Last year, I only dealt with small spiders, tiny flying roach things, an occasional dung beetle, and a multitude of flies. I usually let the things live, except flies. Actually, fly swatting was my main form of exercise.

This year is a different story. I came home from MST to see ants on my floor. ANTS! Ants can quickly infest a PCV’s room, so I located the entrance, swabbed the trail with vinegar, sprinkled the hole with baking soda, and DOOMed it all for good measure. It didn’t really work.

I’ve dealt with more spiders and bigger spiders this year. Spiders above my bed, a spider in my pan, a spider by my face, spiders under my pillow….this could be a sequel to “Snakes on a Plane”-“Spiders in my Room”. I’ve never seen that movie, btw. Everywhere turn around I find spiders larger than an inch ready to jump at me. I was ok sharing my room with spiders when they hid alongside my wardrobe or behind my fridge. But they have mustered the troops and invaded my space, so now I’m on the offensive. Usually I stage a two-pronged attack: a chemical attack (DOOM) quickly followed by a decisive tactical move (shoe).

Yesterday, after finding a large spider in my pan, I thought I had faced the worst of the day. So I settled into my evening activities, and while my glasses were off, I noticed something large and orangish scuttle across my room. By the time I had put my glasses on again, the “thing” had scuttled away, presumably to the only safe haven in my room: under my bed. I had no clue what the “thing” was, but knew I needed to kill it in order to sleep. I bbm’d a frantic cry to another PCV, warning her of the impending danger and making sure PC would know where to find my dead, envenomed body (not really, but I considered asking her to call PC if I didn’t message back). I armed myself (DOOM, broom, umbrella) and put on the proper battle gear (shoes), gave myself a pep talk (fought back tears) and pulled my bed out quickly and found…

Nothing. The enemy was taunting me. I checked the enemy territory thoroughly in hopes of taking the warrior peaceful, to no avail. So I pushed my bed back and began Stage 2: DOOmation. I spray enough DOOM to cause permanent brain damage to myself, then went to the other side of my room. A few minutes later, the “thing” came scuttling out from under my bed, and in the heat of battle, all hopes of a peaceful negotiation flew out the window as I STAMPED him to death, with a loud battlecry (squeal).

After death was confirmed, a careful examination of the remains proved that I still had no clue what the “thing” was. It had 8 legs, 2 huge antennae, 2 nasty pinchers, and the body of a large ant. I conferred with fellow officers of the Insect Offensive Unit (facebooked) and uncovered the identification of the “thing.”

It was a solifugae, whose common aliases include camel spider, wind scorpion, sun spider, or seladia in Setswana. It name means “flees from the sun,” presumably in Latin. It is an arachnid, and thought not considered a spider or scorpion, is a relative of both. It is not venomous, though apparently it liquidizes its food with some sort of super-spit. It’s not dangerous to humans, though it could potentially leave a painful bite with its pinchers. The one redeeming quality is that eats flies and roaches. I’ll think twice before I kill the next invader.

The bottom line is: the teachers at school are terrified that the earthworms in our wormery will bite and kill them, but told me that I should not kill wind scorpions. See pictures below and tell me what YOU think about letting one of these live under your bed.
-Jen

Wind Scorpion!

Wind Scorpion!

See those pinchers?!

See those pinchers?!

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Furry Little Friend

Maybe not so little.

Monday, I had a furry visitor. He had brown fur, snuck into my room, and had eight legs. And yes, he was a legit tarantula, which crawled out from under my bed and was creeping towards my wall when I noticed him in the dusky light of my room, out of the corner of my eye.

If you know me, you know I am not ok with this. I have been downright terrified of any sort of spider for as long as I can remember. Daddy long legs, wolf spiders, “bubbly-butt” spiders, baby spiders…didn’t matter. I was terrified. The thought of having to deal with a tarantula was one of the main things that made me think twice about applying for PC and accepting my invite to SA. Since joining PC, me and the spiders have struck a truth, and I’ve been ok with them hanging in my pit latrine, my room, school, my face…whatever. They honestly aren’t that bad. I’m in Africa, I have no choice but to deal with the arachnids.

Tarantulas are a whole other story. I knew they exist here, but I honestly thought only the Limpopo people would be dealing with them in their homes. I figured that I’d be ok, out here in the desert, chilling with the mini-me spiders in my room. Ha.

So, when I saw this, I freaked out. Now, my Mom gets to be proud of me because I did not cry, holler for a man to kill it, or even dig out a biohazard suit to deal with it. I jumped out of bed, in my SOCKS, and turned on the light. After appraising the weapons in my room, I grabbed my broom and SMACK! hit him hard.

It didn’t faze him. He scurried towards me, and then I did scream and jump on my bed. After gathering my wits again, I found him hiding by my bath basin and SLAM! hit him again. To no avail. He scurried under my dish rack, and I took a few deep breaths. My host mom wandered by and obviously saw my face and realized something was not ok. She asked how I was, and I tried to remember the word for spider. She turned away and I thought she abandoned me to deal with the beast on my own. So I grabbed the rack and swung it out of the way, then decided to go with the jabbing method of death, and grabbed my umbrella and POKE! got him good. He was still alive and kicking though.

Then my host momma came in, and I’m sure she had to choke back a laugh. Imagine: a frazzled white girl, in socks, broom in one hand, umbrella in the other, pathetically trembling as she tries to kill the spider. She grabs my broom, smashes it on him and presses down a few times to smoosh him good. Then she drags the broom out the door, spider still smashed beneath it, and sweeps it into the yard. Then she hollers because it is STILL alive, and BAM! she dealt the final blow.

I think the chickens must have eaten the carcass. No photos, but I did find a leg in my broom the following day. I even touched it! A dead tarantula part, imagine! Big step from the girl who was once afraid of baby spiders.

So….I am going to assume that was the only tarantula in North West Province. Ok? Ok!
-Jen

I swear, the spider was THIS big! ;)

I swear, the spider was THIS big! 😉