Showing posts with label critters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label critters. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Beware...Centipedes and Millipedes

Yup, these creepy crawly creatures also call Maui home. Centipedes are bigger than millipedes and look like they are wearing full plated body armor. They move darn quickly, as the video shows below. And yes, they do bite. Although my experience is, they'd rather run away first and bite only if necessary. 

A friend got bitten one evening walking barefoot across his yard to pick nasturtium flowers for salad.  Even though people like to walk barefoot here, and it feels more "local," it’s tempting the fates. He got bitten and treated it with some ice and an aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, but it got infected a couple of days later, and he ended up taking antibiotics.  Centipede bites are not things to fool around with.

My worst centipede experience was when I lived on Oahu. I was 12 or 13, and came home from school to find a big brown stick in my bed. But it moved. It was a really long centipede. I freaked out, of course, and then calmed down, got a big jar, the biggest I could find, and placed the jar over as much of the centipede as I could, wriggled the jar around with the centipede wriggling around partly inside and outside the jar, and then capped it as quickly as I could. It was a nerve wracking experience. We gave the centipede to a friend of ours who gave it to a university bug collector. It was apparently a fantastic specimen, and it is still the biggest centipede I have ever seen.

I’ve had friends find centipedes crawling up from the shower drain while they were taking a shower. That’s definitely not a fun experience. It's more common in ...sigh... Haiku or Huelo than drier places like Kihei or Kahului. 

A curled up millipede. Do not disturb. 
Millipedes seem to be more common than centipedes. I find about a 100 millipedes for every centipede. Both of them like damp, cool, dark places like the edges of compost heaps in the garden or in a bed of mulch, or in dark corners. I haven’t seen any in the house, knock on wood. I hope I’m not enticing the centipede and millipedes to pay a house visit by writing about them.

In the garden, the millipedes are rolled up sleepily… they look innocent enough. I can usually grab them quickly with a gloved hand and toss them elsewhere. 

Watch out! Millipede spotted. Suzanne and I are sifting compost at the community garden. There are always gazillions of centipedes in the finished compost pile. Of course we're wearing gloves!

Supposedly chickens eat millipedes so I collected 30 millipedes in a jar from the garden compost heap, and brought them to our hens who turned up their beaks in disdain. They pecked at a couple, killing them rather quickly, but were fairly uninterested in eating them. To my dismay, I had just released 30 millipedes into our yard and there they were, unfurling and getting the heck away from the chickens! There was another variety of millipede that was smaller and skinnier, and one of the chickens pounced on it. But I wouldn't rely on chickens to keep the millipede population down.

Do you have a good centipede or millipede story? I'd love to hear it.  

NOTE: If you're a tourist, you will probably NEVER see a millipede or centipede in your condo or resort area. Don't worry - they don't usually hang out in tourist areas. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why I Don't Have Sunflower Sprouts

Sunflower seeds and radish sprouts.

I love sunflower sprouts - they're delicious.  Easy to grow but expensive to buy.  They are easy to sprout for most people. And I have sprouted them before, successfully. But time and time again, I have planted the seeds to discover them eaten, a scattering of sunflower shells on top of the tray or the planter.  Living on the edge of a gulch, there are lots of rats that live nearby. It's as much their gulch as ours. Not that it's our gulch either - it extends for miles both ways.  The Maui rats love avocados, cherry tomatoes, and sunflower seeds.

I know they love avocados because they scratch and bite the surface of hard green avocados, clawing their way to a soft spot. If they can find one.  They love cherry tomatoes because every time a cherry tomato was on the verge of turning red, it disappeared in the middle of the night. The rats timed their harvest precisely.  I could smell the tomato getting riper every day, anticipating eating it soon. So did the rats.

As for sunflower seeds, one way to prevent the rats from eating the seeds is to lay another tray on top as the seeds sprout, but I've had mildew that way. The seeds were probably not that fresh so the germination was taking too long.

Despite the cat, the rats still rule. And mostly I get sunflower sprouts from Mana Foods.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

War on Ants!

The many critters and bugs in Hawaii can create a challenge to keeping a clean home free of insects. Most areas rely on the winter "freeze" to kill off the bug population. Unlike the mainland, Hawaii is temperate year round and the bug population continues to increase.

I waged an all out war against the ants this year when I removed a loose piece of my skin from a wound while I was cleaning it and set it on the counter only to find it moving along the tile moments later. No, I wasn't high! There were a dozen ants carrying their newfound "food" away!

Ants can be a real challenge, especially in dry weather. Oftentimes on the dry side of the island, such as Kihei, the ants come in looking for water more than food or anything else. Line of them can be found headed for the sink or toilet (Ouch!). Keeping things dry helps keep them outside the house. Wiping the sink and counter with a dry rag and using a squeegee in the shower can help to reduce the attraction.
I find it helpful to trace the ant trail to locate it's origin and final destination. The destination tells me what they are after, usually water or a tiny crumb that wasn't wiped up. They may also be headed for the cupboards where there's food.

A wet soapy rag or spray of vinegar on their trail disrupts their scent trail. They may act confused for awhile and run around in various directions. Eventually they reestablish the trail, but it if is disrupted several times they eventually go away.

When I locate the point or origin, usually a tiny hole, I pack slightly moistened baking soda or borax into the holes they come through. They don't like that and go elsewhere, even though they may dig through once or twice before giving up. Using boric acid in the same way would kill them if they dig through, but watch out for the pets and kids!

Ants don't care for mint, so leaving some where they frequent helps too. I find they often just avoid that area and go around it though, so it might require making a solution of mint essential oil to spray around the affected areas to deter them.
Diatomaceous earth sprinkled around is another non-toxic solution. It's like a crystalline powder that has tiny razor sharp edges that cut the ants bellies when they crawl on it. I think it dehydrates them too and they die as a result.

Most imp
ortant, keep food in the fridge or well sealed glass jars. They'll even eat through packages stored in the pantry to get at the food and food packaged like this acts as bait. I never leave open packages in the pantry.
Fruit bowls can be an attraction too. Oddly, I find they avoid my fruit bowl. If they do get into it, I fill a larger bowl with water and place the smaller fruit bowl inside of it to create a water moat that the ants have to swim through. That helps to protect the fruit. The downside is that standing water is attractive to mosquitoes who like to lay eggs in it, so put some dish soap in the water or change it daily.
My biggest problem is the water crock. They crawl up the spout and over the edge to get at the water. They don't drown in it either. They collect in clumps and hold each other afloat for days! I use a net strainer to remove them when I change the water crock. Wiping down the outside of the crock with vinegar or a soap solution helps to keep them away too. When dispensing water, I always drain a tiny bit to be sure no ants are in the spout (and my water!). Then I fill my glass or bottle. Though I prefer water room temperature, if the crock is too full of ants, I just store the crock for the summer and use one of the blue dispenser bottles on the refrigerator shelf. Then I bring it out in the winter and rainy season when the ants are busy wrecking havoc elsewhere.

When all else fails, I apply a line of boric acid around the perimeter of the house (apply when it's not windy). Boric acid can also be mixed with sugar and water in a paste and placed on a shallow surface near their trails to kill them, but the sugar will else attract them first bringing them in.
Good luck with the buggies!

Till next time,

L Maui Gardener