Belle of Dirt

Missouri Ozarks mom, mover of earth, photographer, maker and plant enthusiast

Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice… Beetle…

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FatCatDoorstop

Fat cat doorstop.

Nah. I’m not going to chance it. 🙂

We aren’t under attack by a half-mad pervert from the underworld, but have experienced a strange spectacle around here the past several days. My daughter found the first of our green invaders in the office, running right past the cat’s nose as she watched them trundle along their merry way. (*Note to self- “Cat cannot be depended on as anything but a doorstop.”) I caught a shiny green, very fast moving beetle the size of the cat’s paw in a wad of paper towel and tossed it out the back door. We resumed watching TV; a few minutes later I caught movement out of the corner of my eye- another beetle to catch and remove. As an added bonus, every single one I handled gave off a noxious smell and I had to scrub my hands with dish soap afterwards to get rid of the scent.

A few minutes passed, we saw one running across the living room floor. A few more minutes, our daughter reported another one in the office. I went to squash an empty soda can, couldn’t figure out what was banging around in it- thought someone had put trash in it- looked in the can- it was MOVING. Not trash. Another beetle. CATBeetleThere was a beetle on the movie cases. A beetle in our bedroom. A beetle on the living room windows. A beetle on my daughter’s bedroom curtains.
All of these sightings and removals were in the span of a couple hours. I was starting to wonder if there is a panic button to summon emergency exterminators.

While I spent a good portion of those two hours removing beetles, Tom was doing a little research on Wiki. Our unwanted house guests are called Caterpillar Hunter Beetles. The shiny, iridescent green beetles were brought over to New England from Europe to control gypsy moth populations. They have strong, sharp mandibles for killing and chewing their prey so should be handled with care. They will bite if trapped in clothing or handled- I was unlucky enough to get one inside my shirt while they were swarming our house. The resulting dance/jump/strip in driveway probably would have been quite amusing to our neighbors had they been watching. >.<

On the web, I’ve also seen them called Fiery Beetles. Their primary diet is caterpillars of all kinds- you don’t want these guys in your milkweed patch if you’re trying to draw monarchs to your yard. They are wonderful controllers of those nasty little bagworms (Eastern Tent Caterpillars) that can decimate a tree in hours after they hatch out of their tents. During his research, my husband assured me that they should be most welcome in the garden since they destroy other damaging insects. I would usually tend to agree, but when I went outside the evening of the house invasion, I could HEAR them crawling there were so many. The entire office side of our house looked like it was moving. The flower bed beneath the streetlight on that side of the house was moving. I couldn’t avoid stepping on quite a few that were all over the sidewalk.

Run little caterpillar!

Run little caterpillar!

I started having flashbacks of Stephen King’s Creepshow- that horrible bit with the cockroaches invading the guy’s apartment… I wanted to turn off the streetlight in hopes that they would see light elsewhere (Sorry neighbors!) and go there. I couldn’t even get to the switch- there were no less than 10 beetles crawling all over it and each other. I went back inside, a little bit freaked out; Tom reminded me that I could also turn the streetlight off by flipping the green breaker in our utility room, thankfully the light and pond pump are wired to their own breaker. I turned off the lights inside and out, shoved rolled up towels under the office and bedroom doors and hoped I wouldn’t wake up with beetles crawling on my face.

BeetlePoop

Yes. I took a picture of poop.

The next morning I went out to walk the dog and cringed as I stepped out the door, preparing myself for the swarm… it was gone. Not a single beetle in sight, except for the few we’d crushed on the sidewalk the night before. I walked the dog and on my way across the driveway noticed two piles of poop. It wasn’t made by deer, I’d seen plenty of that in the woods and knew what it looked like. The really noticeable thing about this poo was that it was very shiny. It was completely LOADED with bits of caterpillar beetle shell. I found another poo further up our driveway that was the same. Again, we searched the web, looking at poo pictures until we matched our deposits up with some raccoon leavings. Apparently raccoons will eat beetles. These particular raccoons must have STUFFED themselves with beetles, they were so full they didn’t even make it out of our driveway before they had to do their business. I know some of you in the city detest raccoons because they get in your garbage. They were my little saviors this week. My only worry is that they might come back and decide to try a little frog out of the pond. We like our frogs and don’t want them eaten.

There are still more than a few beetles left- enough to be beneficial to the garden without being outright creepy and a nuisance. I’m not big on spraying pesticides- with a small child and dogs in the yard and garden, I prefer to let nature perform its own checks and balances if possible. We don’t kill spiders if we can avoid it, I adore all our praying mantis, and ladybugs are most welcome as long as they bite the aphids and not me.

It occurred to me that I wrote last year or the year before about blister beetles on the tomato plants… perhaps this is going to become a yearly feature- the beetle write up.

I’m wondering why I can’t be swarmed by something charming… like butterflies or dragonflies???

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Author: Belle

I'm a mom, wife, writer, landscaper, maker, general contractor, maid, cook, personal assistant, accountant, nurse, artist, gardener and dog trainer... and that's just for starters.

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