Archive | August, 2015

Insects and Alcohol – A Jersey Summer

Dog of summer

Dog of summer

Summers in New Jersey involve insects and alcohol. Sometimes, they interact, sometimes they’re independent, but there’s no denying they’re both in play the entire season.

Over the years, I’ve used alcohol in dealing with many forms of insects. One year, up by the Delaware Water Gap, there was a severe infestation of Javanese Jumping Spiders. They are the most intelligent members of the Arichnea family. A theory among arthropods holds that, though the Jumping Spider of course cannot speak, it may know several languages, among them English, Spanish and Myanmar, and can even use the telegraph.

The Javanese Jumping Spider can elevate ten feet straight up from a standing start. Though its body is an inch in diameter, and its legs can reach an additional two inches to each side, it can land on a projection of less than a quarter inch depth on a chandelier’s light fixture. From that vantage, it can survey a buffet and descend into salads and soups.

As little as one drop of whisky absorbed through its footpads can disrupt the spider’s equilibrium so far that it might land two yards from its intended destination. A slight breeze from a gentle fan, along with an aerosol spray of bourbon can be used to deflect an entire armada of jumping spiders. Distance can be easily controlled with a few minute’s practice. In times of Spider Plague, thousands can be dismissed in this fashion,

A close cousin to the Javanese Jumping Spider, the Burmese Barking Spider, also experiences periodic surges in population. Barking Spiders got their nickname by making sudden, loud noises, often emulating small yapping dogs or high-pitched flatulence, or (rarely) gunfire. Sometimes their expostulation resuts in recoil, hurling the insect backwards until it strikes an obstacle such as a girl’s leg.

The Burmese and Javanese spiders are members of the same species. They have similar coloring. Their carapaces are brownish, a ‘burnt orange’, while their undersides are black with white patterning unique to each family. The Jumping family has white dots resembling a drawing of a benzine molecule, while the Barking family shows a recognizable portrait of former major league shortstop Larry Bowa.

Both can be controlled by applications of alcohol, but usually it’s just as well to get sloshed and watch the little bugs get it on.

In addition to jumping spiders, I have used alcohol to control mosquito populations and ant colonies, the latter by filling a shallow trench around the ant colony, the former by floating a skin of alcohol over the eggs and lighting it.

Here, I recommend vodka, with no further comment.

If your dog’s like mine, it enjoys baths. It enjoys them so much, it runs out into thunderstorms and frolics in the downpour. (I trust it is needless for me to point out that baths are not recommended for cats.) Water doesn’t affect ticks but it drowns fleas almost as efficiently as alcohol, so a bath is often sufficient for dogs, if they haven’t had one in the last month or so. But too frequent bathing costs the dog’s coat the natural oils that maintain it. If your dog has been bathed or groomed in the last four to six weeks, then, or if the animal who lives with you is a cat, and you find your home overwhelmed with fleas, I recommend filling a spray bottle with vodka (80 or 100 proof) and soaking the animal from neck to footpads with it.

Here’s a handy tip: the 100 proof stuff will tend to evaporate sooner than the 80 proof. Also, keep a bowl of water full and in reach of your pet at all times.It will thank you for it. It would also probably appreciate dimmed lighting and subdued sounds the following day, or whenever it next awakens.