At breakfast the other day, I asked my husband if he had seen the news recently.
"You mean about the judge in Oklahoma who was, uh, brushing up on penal code while court was in session?"
I squinted at him. "What are you talking about?"
"Never mind." He changed the subject. "What news are you talking about?"
"Alternative pest control," I said, suspecting (correctly) that it was better not to ask about the judge.
It started with an AP story about a New York Shopping mall, where the assistant manager of a sporting goods store seemed to have decided to try something a little different when looking for a way to kill a spider in the stock room. Instead of opting for conventional methods, he doused the critter with an unspecified flammable liquid, then set it on fire. I suspect he was trying to practice Live Action Role Playing pest control.
Perhaps in his head he was Frodo, battling Chelob to the death in the final installment of Lord of the Rings. Maybe he thought he was Peter Parker battling Doc Ock (or vice versa, depending on whether you go by number of legs or species). But after setting the store on fire, causing the entire mall to be evacuated and causing smoke and water damage to neighboring stores, the police decided he was simply a fourth-degree arsonist, a legal term which best translates as, "incredibly stupid".
If you're looking for an alternative pest control method that does not involve spraying chemicals, Britney Spears' mom has a solution: If it annoys you, just run it over. Lynne Spears drove her 4x4 over the ankle of photographer Calum Reavely in Santa Monica this week. One pesky photographer down, six million more to go.
Setting things on fire and running over them with cars may not seem efficient, but you have to look at the alternative. According to the New York Times, hunting fish with guns is a big thing in Vermont, where they use "high-caliber pistols, shotguns, even AK-47s".
"Well, yes," John pointed out when I told him about this. "But those are fish. Man's battle with his finned foe has always been legendary. Hence the awesome might behind AquaMan's gift to speak with fish, a power which made him feared, loved and respected more than even Super Man or Richard Simmons. Why, if only Santiago had been packing an AK-47 in the Old Man and the Sea, the entire story would have been completely different."
"You may be right," I told him, "but what about the news out of Laporte, Indiana, about the 78 year old woman who required knee surgery after accidentally shooting herself last week in an attempt to shoo squirrels from her birdfeeder with a 16-gauge shotgun?"
"Yeah, but those were squirrels," John said. "You get what you deserve if you try to use guns against squirrels. Guns are for fish."
"So what do you use for squirrels?"
"SUVs. Weren't you paying attention to the whole Britney Spears thing?"
Right. So flammable liquids are for insects. Projectile weapons are for fish. Gasoline powered vehicles are for mammals. But why are we trying to destroy pests at all?
Because pests are scientifically proven to be bad examples, threatening family values and the moral fabric of society.
NewScientist.com released an article this week, citing studies run by one Julia Jones of the University of Sydney, Australia. They report, "In a series of experiments, Jones's team found, for example, that worker colonies with multiple fathers were much better at maintaining the optimum hive temperature than colonies where each worker had the same father."
Ah-HAH! Parents have always known that "the birds and the bees" was a tricky topic to discuss with youngsters, but it is apparently even more sordid than we thought. Not only do bees have complete disregard for the sanctity of marriage and the nuclear family, but colonies that flaunt these rules do better than well behaved ones.
Looking deeper into the topic, I found a September 2000 article on the same website that revealed the findings of Charles Abramson from Ohio State University, who found that bees are excessively fond of alcohol and drunkenness. NewScientist.com reports, "Abramson says he started studying the honeybees' response to alcohol when he noticed that they drink fermenting nectar in the wild and forage on discarded wine bottles". No mention was made of the perennial problem of bees panhandling near the OSU campus or when a 12-step program for hive insects will be completed.
"Oh, by the way," my husband said as he finished his coffee. "Can I borrow a pair of your tights and some hair spray? I want to do something about the ants on the back patio."
"Okay, but this time I get to be Batman and you have to be Robin." The Live Action Role Playing method of pest control may be a little more work than just spraying diazinon, but it's better for the environment. And for family values.
Originally appeared 2004-08-07.
This article first appeared in the June 26 issue of the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.