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Spiders and Snakes and a City Girl

I am, by all standards of measure, a city girl. I come from the neighborhoods of curbed streets with water drainage thingys and sidewalks – even bike routes. Places where there are 7-11’s and Starbucks on every corner and at least three McDonald’s are nearby. The 5 different grocery stores in the neighborhood give you plenty of choices on where to shop and pick up prescriptions.  Or you can also spend your money at the CVS – one in each direction and equidistant from your home. Gas stations from 4 to 24 pumps are just one intersection away. Trash pickup? Bi-weekly from the alley with special blue bags for recycling. The kids primarily walk to school, or maybe ride a bike. Front yards are watered throughout the hot Texas summer with sprinkler sytems. Patios are covered. And by your choice of plants and trees, flowers and bird feeders, you can attract the kind of nature you want in your yard. If you enjoy squirrels, your pecan tree does not even need to be that big.

But here, I am now in a very different kind of place. Here, some of it is city. The main road is filled with stores, gas stations, restaurants, office buildings, and fast food joints. All of them in strip centers with some stand alone’s in front and divided by the next intersection. Lots of traffic in and out. For about 2 miles. Then, it reduces itself to individual buildings, many of them metal, with some space of land in between. The middle lane of the 5 lane highway is for left turns, from either direction. The driveways cease to be concrete and instead become stone. There are no curbs or sidewalks here. We have reached the land of the semi-rural. Farm and feed stores. Mom and Pop restaurants. Super cool “antique” stores full of all things partly rusty and truly vintage. Then beyond all this is absolute rural. Cows and horses in large fenced fields, narrow lanes of paved and curving roads, the leftovers of someone’s home, and someone else’s wash hanging on the line.

All of this in one place. One town. Down one highway. And I didn’t even mention the lake or the beautiful lake houses that surround it.

My house, the one I just moved into about five months ago, is in a sweet little, quiet neighborhood. All the kids ride the bus to school. The ice cream man comes down the street every day. Neighbors bring your trash bin up for you if you forget and leave it out. The neighborhood is hidden from view behind a somewhat industrialized area. Large, fabricated metal buildings with overhead doors and a great many pickup trucks in the parking lots. Bright security lights scare away the darkness down the narrow road leading back to our houses. My house, a duplex really, sits at the bend in the road and backs up to a sort of mini forest. A large tract of land empty of everything but trees…..and critters.

And here, really, is where the story begins. The story of city girl meeting rural reality and super freaky critters.

It’s September, and temperatures have plummeted nicely into the low 90’s. I take a fresh cup of coffee out onto the patio to enjoy a break from unpacking and I notice this strange, little, black insect flying around. It almost looks like two flies are stuck together. I pick up the phone and text my sister who is a know-er of all things, a Master Naturalist, and one who has lived in the more rural parts of this area for more than ten years. I descibe this unusual little bug to her and ask what it may be. Quickly she responds, “Lovebug. It’s harmless. Does not bite or sting.” I take a reassuring breath and continue with my coffee and my day, now safe from this species’ wrath.

Love Bugs – Photo from Wikipedia

A few days later, I am cleaning up my kitchen for the night when I am startled to see what I assume to be some kind of mutated wasp on my kitchen cabinet. Stealthily, I grab the fly swatter and SWAT! Nailed it. Yay me! Dead bug! But I notice it has this bright red coloring to it and that it no longer looks like a wasp. So, quite daringly, I slip the swatter under it to pick it up and have a closer look.

Scarlet Bodied Wasp Moth

First of all, EW! But yes, this is what was in my house. Bright red body, lacey black wings. A Scarlet Bodied Wasp Moth. It is native to Florida and the gulf coast according to sources. Also, not harmful. Also it appeared out of nowhere (the critter forest) to terrify me. Not being from the coastal region, I had never seen such a thing. Miss Master Naturalist, only slightly chuckled at me for being afraid of a moth.

The next critter came along within the following two weeks. As I am stepping out my back door onto my uncovered patio, I spy movement near my feet. Quickly, I retreat. There on the threshold of my door is some kind of devil insect and it is somehow dragging an extra large, hairy spider (dead, I assume and laying on it’s back) across the doorway and down into the grass.

Tarantula Hawk – Photo from Google Images

First of all, where did this enormous spider come from? And how did this much smaller insect find it? Did this flying freak actually kill it or was it already dead? How on earth is the blue and copper devil insect able to move it so quickly? Turns out, there is something called a Tarantula Hawk. It is a spider wasp and it’s goal, other than tormenting people like me, is to paralyze Tarantulas and then drag them off so they can serve as dinner for their egg larva. Or something very similar to that disgusting scenario. And as much as I tried to avoid hearing the gruesome details about this back yard invader, Miss Master Naturalist and her daughters quite relished explaining it to me. “Circle of life”. Again, Ew! NO. Please stop telling me this information. There might have been laughter aimed at the city girl.

Then there was the day I was outside – innocently enjoying the fall sunshine, catching a little vitamin D, and savoring my coffee – when I glanced down at the patio and caught a snake headed straight toward me! I leapt up from my chair and ran directly into the house, dialing my Master Naturalist sister on the way. She failed to answer my panicked call, so I was forced to dial my niece. After describing the slithering beast to her, she nonchalantly told me it was a Coral Snake! Oh, yay. Venomous snakes in my backyard. I’m not sure how long it took for my heart to regain a normal rhythm again. Fortunately, my action in fleeing the scene caused the snake to leave as well. It turned tail rather quickly.

Coral Snake – Photo from Wikipedia, Public Domain

My family members? Pretty sure they had a good giggle over City Girl Meets a Snake.

Of course, I have normal animals in the woods as well. Squirrels, possums, birds….I’ve even heard an owl. But I don’t really consider a big, old black vulture sitting atop my fence to be normal. Nothing I would have seen in the suburbs and there is nothing dead here my not-so-attractive friend. You can move on now. Please.

I have also been witness to your normal, little backyard lizard. You know the ones that hang out around your back door and sneak away into cracks in the bricks? This one was grey, with a white belly. This one took it’s hind foot, like a dog would do, to scratch the top of its head. I thought there was something on its head that it was trying to remove. I was right. As I continued to watch, this helpful mosquito eater, continued to scratch and eventually scratched off a layer of skin. And then, it ate that skin. I know. So gross.

The section of woods behind my house is pretty bare now. Winter temperatures finally forced the trees to give up their leaves and the electric company has spent some time back there trimming branches away from the power lines. It’s been entirely too cold and wet for me to have my morning coffee on the patio. Mostly there are just some squirrels playing out there. I live in Texas, tho, so I’m sure it won’t be long before it warms up and the other creepy critters return. Probably even some new ones. Ew!

By the way, my sister, the Master Naturalist, blogs under Little Wild Streak and has a lot of great posts about Texas wildlife and native plant life with amazing pictures. You should check out her posts!


6 thoughts on “Spiders and Snakes and a City Girl

  1. Amusing retelling. If nothing else, you get to entertain others with tales of each new critter to descend upon your otherwise tranquil abode. I am totally phobic about insects and will never laugh at someone else who is startled by things with more legs than are necessary or even wanted in an animal. We have house centipedes up here that kill spiders. Since we can have something called a wolf spider up here that will have you thinking a kitten has somehow found its way into your house–until you count all the legs. There is also the rare change of a brown recluse rearing it’s fanged face of fury. Personally, the house centipedes are so terrifying, it’s hard to celebrate their spider killing ways when you run into them on laundry day.
    Good luck. Perhaps you will sleep well knowing that all those insects are likely hibernating for the cold season…or have moved somewhere warm and dry–like the crawl spaces of your house. Either way, sleep well! And good luck.


    • Phobic, petrified, repulsed….I will never find the many-legged creatures or their flying counterparts to be necessary. Your centipedes sound quite creepy, but that Wolf Spider!!! No. No, thank you very much. I feel my ability to almost handle the creatures I have had is stretched as far as it can go. However, I won’t be surprised when Spring brings new horrors to my yard. I’ll just cower in the doorway until my sister tells me it’s safe.

      Liked by 1 person

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