All creatures great and small

When I say I have had a veritable zoo or critter menagerie in my apartment over the year, I swear I am not exaggerating.

Such is life in a ground floor apartment, in a village, in the foresty mountain area of Hong Kong. One thing most people don’t realize is that Hong Kong is only about 25% urban – and 75% rural or forested. Part of this is why cows and water buffalo roam freely on Lantau Island or out in the New Territories. The other part is the abandonment of villages by locals for cities where factories and better-paying jobs beckoned during the 1970s-80s.

Cow crossing signs are everywhere on roads, as the wild beasts tend to congregate – or, the more gregarious ones when the mood strikes, mate – on the blind, sloping curves of the main streets that run from town to town, village to village.

I can’t say I dislike all critters with the same measure. However, I have kept track of the free-loading houseguests I’ve acquired this year being a ground-floor resident.

This includes, but is not limited to the following (because god knows what is lurking behind or under furniture right now):

  • Countless flying ants/termites that came in a drove one night
  • Mosquitos galore
  • A marching army of ants x 2
  • An infestation of rice weevils (thanks, “gourmet” rice company!)
  • 22 + jumping spiders or other baby arachnids
  • 3 King Kong-size centipedes
  • 3 massive, nuclear-war surviving cockroaches
  • 2 pissed off wasps
  • 2 small geckos (car insurance salesmen)
  • 1 hapless millipede
  • 1 lychee sting bug
  • 1 tropical butterfly
  • 1 snail
  • 1 toad
  • 1 slug
  • 1 Praying Mantis who nearly crawled into the house
  • 1 orb-weaving spider, who, to be fair, never came indoors but started to build a huge, shiny web in a tree not far from my front door
  • One Huntsman spider who was out on the concrete drive but didn’t come in.

I have kept track mostly because I don’t think people believe me when I come to work with the latest story of something I found in my house, on the patio, or in the drive. I like to think it happens to others who are in an even less-trekked, less-populated areas than myself, but so far, all I can get out of others is “at least you didn’t have a cobra at your back door.” A cobra? Oh, yes. Cobras. And many-banded kraits. Those are poisonous as hell and just as prevalent.

Where did I move?!?


However, these harmless critters have been an endless source of learning – some of them I’d never seen before – and amusement over the year. Thankfully, there’s been nothing poisonous, only mildly frightening and/or annoying.

Flying termites? Let’s talk about those. They come out once a year, about late May/early June, in the country areas, and they hatch after a hard rain. All of a sudden – and without any warning – thousands of dead bodies started piling up under my patio door and on my tile floors. Fluttery, crisp wings – which fall off once they hit the ground – floated up everywhere and were a pain in the arse to sweep up. They’re attracted to light, so that meant, unless you were pioneering it, they were a-comin’ in the house. Eww.

Mosquitos? It’s the tropics. The bloodsuckers want in. All. the. Time.

Ants. Lots of them. I’m a tidy person. No food left out. So they found something in the bathroom they liked. Gross.

Rice weevils. Nothing like hundreds of little black bugs appearing on walls, in the dish drain, on the sofa … all thanks to some fancy rice I bought at the store. Once I cleared up the infestation and all the pasta in the cupboard, they went away like poof!

The spiders I dispose of quickly – I’m not a fan, to be honest – so that’s why I have a count – the amount of 22 arachnid deaths this year to 2 survivors. I know they take out mosquitos, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t finding much food in my bed (yes, under the sheets!!), my work bag, or my basket of coffee pods.

12004000_695938178610_7726768677990222236_n
Huntsman spider – they like houses. Thankfully, it stayed away.

Centipedes. Gross. Too many wee, long legs.

Huge cockroaches. Again, I’m a tidy person. These missiles come up through the drains after a rain (or construction next door) and hang out in the bathroom. Or in the front hall. A good shot of Biokill makes them flop over dead. 14100403_735817799530_9144436068038873933_n

Wasps. They invited themselves in. They got clapped by flipflops.

The geckos – they make cooing noises. They eat insects as well, so I’m cool with them.

Millipede. He just started ambling through from the front door like he just owned the place. I got a Post-It and flung him back out to the dark abyss of the yard.

Lychee stink bug. He was pretty fantastical-looking and wasn’t very stinky. I let him go gently into that good night.

Tropical butterfly. Turquoise and gorgeous. I guided it out with a piece of paper so it didn’t die in the house. There must be some bad juju associated with that.

Escargot. He was attached to my door when I went to leave.

Slug. On the tile floor. Stepped on it because I didn’t see there. Really gross feeling.

Toad. He wanted a kiss. I sent him packing to take care of the mosquitos.

Praying Mantis. She got a little push aside with a broom just in case she was thinking about moving in and leaving a trail of broken hearts everywhere.

Orbie. The big orb weaver eventually cut web and took off after someone chased it away. It wasn’t me because I was too freaked out to go anywhere near it. Suspecting a neighbor. These two were down the road from me. I didn’t take pictures of the one out front, but they don’t look too different.

And so, after a year of living in a National Geographic short film, I’m moving to a new place, an upper floor with much better sealed doors and windows. There are mosquito screens on the windows and doors, too. The landlord claims to have disposed of only 2 spiders in a few years.

Fingers crossed.

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