“Huh,” think I. “Biggest cockroach I’ve ever seen.”
Well, no: it’s a paloverde beetle: about four inches long and an inch wide, a mighty handsome monster of a bug. These critters’ babies can kill a mature paloverde tree in seven years. And yea verily, they infest the ground all around my beautiful Desert Museum specimen. They’re also going after a couple of the citrus, and I found one exit hole over by the olive tree on the other side of the house, too.
Paloverde beetles are essentially immune to bug sprays. They’re unfazed by any of your schemes to rid the world of their ugly little faces. It is, in essence, an impregnable insect.
They are not immune to thrashers and mockingbirds. Those little dinosaurs (as we know, birds are dinosaurs) can take on one of these Cretaceous cockroaches, kill it (with some trouble), and eat the damn thing.
That is one helluva bird, because a paloverde beetle is about a third the length of a thrasher, which is not small at-tall as tweetie-birds go.
So this morning I’m sitting here, and down by one of the orange trees, there’s a thrasher doing battle. A paloverde beetle can inflict a fierce bite, and this one is fighting back. You can see the bird dodge out of the way, then dart back in, grab the critter, whack it on the ground, toss it in the air, and dodge aside again.
Finally Birdosaurus rex wins out and enjoys a handsome feast by the light of dawn.
This is the benefit of fighting off the neighbors’ damn cats. No cats in the yard means more birds, safer birds, healthier birds…and lots fewer bugs.
We’ve not seen a single minion of the Ant Queen’s armies this year. Birds—almost all tweetie-birds and many game birds—eat ants.
Another beneficiary of the de-cattification campaign is the single most amazing gecko I have ever seen. He must be a good seven inches long, from the tip of his nose to the end of his graceful, whiplike tail. He lives in the termite nest…uhm, firewood stacked by the wall, as far away from the house as it can be stacked.
In the hour or three after dawn, he comes out to soak up some vitamin D, presumably: races up the wall, parks himself in the sun, and does a series of push-ups.
This, we’re told, is a strategy for cooling the reptilian body.
Lizards eat vast quantities of bugs, notably…yes!…goddamned mosquitoes. There are at least two of the little critters over there, the gigantic gecko and another in a more typical size. And lo! We have hardly any skeeters these days.
What we need here is a Bumosaurus rex. We do have a great deal more bums than mosquitoes around the ’hood these days.
Just went out, armed to the teeth, to investigate the goings-on in the alley and found this poor little guy: filthy dirty, sweaty, exhausted-looking, and claiming to be lost.
Well, he’s lost, all right, but not in a geographical sense.
He remarks on the shillelagh I’m carrying (which of course I have in hand for self-defense), and I say it’s my dog shillelagh, because you’ll run into loose pit bulls and the like around here. This is a lie: he knows it’s a lie, I know it’s a lie, but it’s convenient.
He says, “Sometimes people call me Dog.”
I say, “You’re not a dog; you’re a man.”
He says, with a grin, “A friend! I need a friend.”
I clue him to the activities of Catholic Social Services, who are building “low-income” (read “homeless”) housing down the street from us and suggest that if he finds himself in those parts he should go in and ask about it. I do not say that last night someone said the complex will be only for families. Virtually all of the homeless who haunt our alleys are single men.
We wander off on our separate ways.
There, but for the grace of God, go we.