Exterminating problems

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The weather has been damp and cool for this time of year. That is good news in some respects, but it does make pesky insects thrive. Have you noticed the early morning display of hundreds of single spider webs dotting the grass in the lawn? At first glance it looks like the lawn has blossomed overnight. As we investigate we can usually find one small spider in each sparkling web.

The larger spiders also decorate for us with webs from two to three inches in diameter, to some that are up to 18 inches or 2 feet. Obviously the world is teeming with spiders of all sorts and shapes.

While I admire those outdoor neighbors and their webs, I don't care for those that come indoors. With no feelings of guilt at all I can use the fly swatter or my foot to get rid of any indoor spider that I spot. I know they might have caught a stray gnat or mosquito in their indoor webs, but I still try to get rid of any that I see.

Last week, Marilyn's cat, Pumpkin, brought a hummingbird inside. We immediately shut him in a room and tried to catch the injured hummer. We were able to catch it to take outside. After a few minutes of lying on our picnic table, it flew away. We watched for it the rest of the day but never saw it again. We hope it survived Pumpkin's hunting prowess.

I began to evaluate my actions. Why do I so easily squash a spider that can spin beautiful webs and is generally beneficial to the natural system, and yet work so hard to save the life of another species? The hummingbird is beautiful and interesting to watch. It helps in the cross pollination of flowers and fruits. That is enough reason to try to protect and even feed them some.

The spider is fascinating, but not really beautiful to most people. It can cause illness or even death, but that is very rare. It obviously has a very important place in the ecosystem or there wouldn't be so many of them. But probably the main reason I can cheerfully get rid of them is that they proclaim poor housekeeping if they spin their webs inside my house and they look creepy. This is especially true as they scurry across the bathroom floor in the night when I have just turned on the light.

When I carry this question to vegetation, why do I glory in the sight of my yellow Spanish blossoms, but do my best to rid our lawn of thistles or crabgrass?

Thistles and crabgrass have beauty, but they don't belong in a well-manicured lawn. I am not versed in the benefits and harm of different grasses, but I am sure there are reasons why each of these species exist.

I should probably quit drawing these comparisons before I get to the human race. Do we like some people better because they are nice to look at, even if the one who is rather homely has achieved great things for humankind? When we research salaries and fame, it does appear that there are real financial benefits to being easy to look at.

So if there are benefits to animals and insects for beauty, and possible gains to humans for attractiveness, where does that leave those of us Middle Age Plus folk who have lost any beauty we once had? Are we in danger of being squashed like my midnight spider visitor? Or would a little make-up or making sure all zippers and buttons are correctly fastened save us?