(Preface: anyone with a fondness for animals of any kind (Tess) or a strong squeamishness regarding bugs should probably just skip this post. In summary, I intended to save a couple bugs, and then accidentally killed them. Gruesomely.)
Our apartment has a slight spider problem.
Very slight, really. It’s just that if you move a recycling bin away from the kitchen wall, there’s likely to be a spider behind it. You just Dirt Devil it up and everything’s fine. By the time I got around to taking some boxes of stuff to Goodwill, I had to vacuum up one spider that had nested into the corner under a lamp and trap another for release. (More on that later.) No big deal. Occasionally a spider will emerge from the shower drain during the night, but that doesn’t happen much anymore. I like to think that when the first five scouts never returned, the spider clan decided to try a different apartment.
A couple days ago, though, the cat discovered a new form of arthropod trying to call our place home.
I knew there was a problem when, one morning, the cat was sitting quietly next to the couch. Normally she’s either sitting in a window, lying on the floor, or trying to sit on me and/or my laptop. This couch location was new, as was her stillness. I realized she’d spotted something interesting (or at least she thought she had), and I got down on the floor to take a look.
There was nothing there.
I decided this must be one of those moments when a cat stares intensely at absolutely nothing, either because they can see into another dimension or they’re trying to freak out their humans. But just to be safe, I scooted some floor cushions around.
And out skittered a two-inch-long centipede.
I yelped and ran for our patented Bug Removal System, aka a plastic cup, but of course taking my eyes off the thing was a huge mistake. There was no trace of it by the time I got back. I peered into the bookshelf, afraid it would chew up my graphic novels and take up residence inside them, and shifted around the cushions it had been hiding under earlier.
No sign of it.
I moved in further behind the couch, cautiously nudging aside a power strip and some disused handheld weights, and the centipede went zipping by from God knows wherever it was hiding. I made some kind of alarmed squeaking noise and clamped the cup down on top of it.
Okay. Huge potentially poisonous centipede trapped in plastic cup. I’ve got this.
Normally, the next step would be to get a piece of paper or a magazine to slip under the cup, blocking the exit for safe transport to as far away from the building as possible. Paper is usually sufficient, but in the case of larger spiders, I prefer a magazine. They could bite through paper, after all.
This centipede, though, probably had acid venom like the alien from Alien and would burn a toxic hole through any papery substance I tried to enclose it in. This operation called for a plate.
I went to the kitchen, got one of our old indestructible Corelle plates, and returned to the cup. This is always the tricky part – getting the plate (or whatever) underneath the cup without leaving an opening big enough for your prey to escape and bite you in the eye.
Moving as slowly as I could, I slid the cup across the carpet onto the back of the plate and carefully took the whole thing into the kitchen. I planned to replace the cup with a big brandy glass so I could observe this creature, and maybe interrogate it as to how the hell it got into our living room. Was it camped out in our couch? Did it hitchhike on someone’s shoe? Did it bribe the spiders for access through whatever portals of hell they use to get inside?
I set my trap down on the counter, got the brandy glass, and prepared to make the switch. I removed the plate from the top of the cup and peered inside.
Dear God, it was gone. I hadn’t lost it during the plate transfer, so it must have gotten out from under the cup on its own accord. Burrowed into the carpet or something, Great Escape-style.
No matter what, that meant the centipede had been loose in the living room for a good minute. It could be anywhere and chewing up anything by now. I grabbed the cup, the plate, and a flashlight and went back.
The cat was still crouched alertly near the edge of the couch, staring into the darkness underneath, so I decided to rely on her to help me catch the centipede. Sure enough, her eyes caught a movement I couldn’t see, and when I turned on the flashlight, there was the centipede, making for the shelter of the Guitar Hero controllers.
The cat dove for it.
“NO, CAT, LEAVE IT.” I seized her middle and pulled, but she’d dug her claws into the carpet, her whole being straining to destroy the intruder. “CAT THAT IS A POISONOUS CREATURE, LEAVE IT ALONE.” All the while, the centipede was making its escape. Finally the cat let go and I pushed her back, shining the flashlight again under the couch. The centipede was still there, just reaching the controllers. I shoved them away, lost sight of the creature, and kept rummaging, sliding the controllers around, hauling one out entirely to clear my line of sight.
And then out ran the centipede from under that plastic guitar, six inches from my face.
This time I placed the plate in its path and let it run on before slamming the cup over it. No escape this time. I hurried back to the counter and carefully lifted the cup, prepared to immediately replace it with the
observation jar brandy glass.
But the centipede was even quicker than I expected, and when I set the glass down, I accidentally mashed the centipede’s head. Just a little bit. It was only slightly squished. Sorta.
It reeled back and twisted its body around. It was probably in pain, but it was such a big darn bug I thought it might recover. But as I watched, the twitching subsided and it lay still under the glass.
I texted a photo of it to Kevin. “This thing was in our living room. I think I accidentally killed it.”
Still, I kept it there, thinking it might still recover. I moved on to the Goodwill boxes, which I was finally going to take to the store. I moved the first box carefully, rightfully expecting a spider to emerge.
It did, and it was effing huge. Quarter-sized. I could see its fangs.
And I was so very done with wrangling creepy things.
I just set the bug cup over it and left it in the corner. It could wait to be evacuated until tomorrow.
Another, smaller spider was hunched up in its web inside the box, but my patience and benevolence were long gone, so that sucker got vacuumed up.
A bit later, Kevin came home for lunch and took a look at my failed centipede observation center.
“So this is it?”
“Yeah. I’m pretty sure it’s dead. I just wanted you to see it.”
“That’s pretty gross.”
“Yeah. I’m really hoping there’s only one of them. Oh, and there’s still a spider under that cup, so don’t touch it.”
I finally took the trap and threw the dead centipede out the back door. There was a tiny purple smear on the plate where its head had been.
“Whoa, those things bleed PURPLE.”
I quickly realized how morbid I was being and how very not interested Kevin was in the color of centipede blood and stuck the plate in the dishwasher.
There were no further centipedes, and the trip to Goodwill was uneventful and blessedly arachnid-free. I proceeded to ignore the spider in the cup for another day.
I guess I was hoping it would starve, or something, so I wouldn’t have to try to catch-and-release another creepy bug. Still, I approached the cup with a hefty pamphlet in hand to serve as the cover, and lifted the cup.
It had made a web inside the cup.
Then it skittered out, racing across the linoleum. Again, the cat spotted it, and tried to kill it.
“CAAAT STOP ATTACKING THE POISONOUS BUGS.” I tried to haul her away, but her claws were hooked in the floor mat and she picked the whole thing up with her and it was total chaos for a few seconds while I tried to detach her and get her out of the way. Luckily the spider didn’t have anywhere to hide now that the boxes were gone, and the rest of the trapping and releasing went smoothly.
Except the cat got out.
She’s not allowed out, mostly for the safety of the other cats at our complex. We recently got her a leash and harness so she can explore the yard under supervision.
She doesn’t like the harness as much as Charlie does, and she’s started trying to rub her collar off when we take her out with the leash alone, but that’s another story.
Today, she just quietly slipped out and stood on the patio for a moment. She didn’t even try to run when I grabbed her to bring her inside. I decided to put her on the leash for a bit and take her back outside.
The spider I’d rescued was still poised on the patio, maybe trying to get its bearings or plotting how to get back into our kitchen. I didn’t want the cat trying to eat it again, so I took off my flipflop and slowly nudged it towards the spider, intending to startle him off.
Instead I rolled over him and mooshed him completely. Legs came off. It was bad. The cat never noticed a thing.
I told Kevin about it when he got home from work.
“I think you should stop trying to save insects.”