Who knew the rain would turn your home into the Rat Motel.
Who knew the rain would turn your home into the Rat Motel.
Art by Monica Fuentes

Good-bye Rain, Hello Pests! Drying Out Means Dealing With Unwanted Visitors

I was recently exchanging flood stories and photos with my brother-in-law via text. He lives in Austin and, like me, is a bit of a nerd for this sort of thing. When I mentioned what a change for the positive this ultimately was for areas of the state still drought-ridden — like central Texas — he responded, "This is how we end droughts in Texas."

Indeed, this is exactly how Texas ended the drought that had plagued us since 2010. During that time, nearly the entire state was under severe drought conditions and remained that way until the recent downpours moved everyone out of the red. Of course, that came with awful flooding. Thankfully, the forecast is beginning to look much less wet as we move through the next week to ten days. Sadly, the floods were not the only consequence of the heavy rain. While rising waters may have driven humans from their homes, the same is true of animals, and not just the cute, fuzzy ones.

One positive of the drought was the kind of embargo on mosquitoes. Sure, we still had them — we always do — but they weren't the swarming, carry-off-your-children variety typically found in Swamp Town, USA. All that has changed. In fact, the first Texas case of West Nile Virus, a disease transmitted via those stinging little jerks, in 2015 was found in Harris County just weeks ago.

At least with mosquitoes, there is bug spray. You might consider adding that to your daily routine. Someone seriously needs to market perfume and/or aftershave with bug repellent in it. But the problem goes well beyond those nasty little bastards.

There are rats. Yes, rats. These are not the cute field mice like Mrs. Brisby. These are the power-hungry Jenner variety of rat, and, alas, most of us don't have a cat like Dragon. What? You don't get my The Secret of NIMH references? Look them up! The bottom line is a bunch of cheese-loving disease carriers could be coming into your house, and not just to watch cooking shows and make you delicious French cuisine. Let me have my cartoon references, people. It's all I have left now that the rats are taking over.

If that weren't bad enough, the roaches are back, too. These allegedly won't kill you, but I know a few people who are so terrified of them, they would probably prefer the cold solace of death to the thought of one of these giant wood roaches crawling on them unexpectedly. Ironically, those big-ass palmetto bugs try to get into your house looking for food and, of all things, water. God, they are so stupid, which is probably why they will be alive long after we are killed off by a mutant virus (carried by rats, no doubt) or by...fire ants!

As a child of the ’70s, I remember the bad B movies where people were wiped out by bees and spiders and whatnot. But few things gave me greater fear as a youngster than movies about army ants, the kind of creatures that would cover a human or a cow or a dinosaur (I said they were B movies!) and drag them back down to their hive of horror or whatever the hell that mound of doom was. Fire ants seem equally as terrifying. Their stings hurt like hell and they freaking float on water! I can only attribute that to sorcery.

And before I finish giving you nightmares, it should be noted that you have probably spotted a bunch of spider webs in your yard. We have only a couple of poisonous spiders in Texas and they are very, very private creatures. I'd call them modest if their bite couldn't kill you. Mostly, you find black widows in attics and brown recluses in wood piles. If you see a big web in the open, even if the spider looks kinda freaky, it is probably a harmless orb weaver, doing the dirty work of killing off mosquitoes for you. As scary as it might be, do your best to leave it alone.

The one item of good news you can take away from this terror: With the waters now mostly having receded, the snakes will have slithered back to their dirty little holes and probably won't be getting into your plumbing and swimming up into your toilet. Probably.

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