Living here in western, central Mexico in a small rural village means that I live with several roommates, as well as their counterparts in my garden. There are spiders that spin webs in the garden and house spiders that do not spin webs, but sit on the walls waiting for their prey. The house version is shy and just blowing on them will cause them to scurry away.
But by far, the cutest and my favorite are the geckos. There used to be so many in my garden until my two cats began living with me. Their names are Ginger and Peach and they are working cats, keeping my property and house free of pests, and they are excellent hunters. So far they have left me “gifts” of 3 dead rats, 2 dead snakes and I have even seen them eat a few roaches. They also managed to catch a baby chick that somehow wandered into my garden and made quick work of the poor things before I could rescue it.
And, they seem to love to catch and kill my lovely geckos, and now I rarely see any of them any more. Unfortunately, it is a cat’s nature to hunt and I cannot tell them, “It’s ok to catch this, but not that.”
There are two types of geckos here. The first is a gecko, such as what you see on the Geico commercials – solid body with a long thin tail and their toes are long and skinny like sticks. They live outside in the garden and their color is brown.
The other type is called a besucona. They have a waterlogged appearance, with pale, translucent skin and shorter, rounded toes. They live inside the house and eat roaches, spiders, scorpions and other insects. They usually keep pretty well hidden, but occasionally I see them scurry on my wall and hide behind my bamboo curtains. However, you can tell they are there by their very distinctive sound.
In my house, they get into trouble when they apparently are looking for water. I found one in my shower and have found several in my stainless steel sink. They could not climb out, and so I have to help them. One time, one poor thing somehow fell into the water chamber of my coffee maker and drowned, so I now only add water when I am ready to brew coffee.
I also was able to observe a very distinct method by which they try to escape predators. With the latest one I found in the sink, I took a paper towel and wrapped it around its body to lift it out of the sink. Next thing I knew, the tail popped off and was thrashing around in the sink like a wounded animal. The tail, no longer attached to the body, kept up the thrashing for several minutes. In the meantime, I put the besucona on the counter so it could climb up the wall and escape to safety.
Curious about this, I looked it up on the internet, and, sure enough, when they are stressed or trying to escape a predator, the blood vessels at the base of the tail constrict to prevent bleeding and the tail drops off and flops around. After a certain amount of time, the tail and spinal cord grow back. However, the tail may be a slightly different shape and color. Scientists have been studying this for clues in order to possibly discover a way to help humans with spinal cord injuries.
Here is more information about tail regeneration:
Meanwhile, one of my other “roommates” has not been so welcome. In the U.S. there is the general term “scorpion,” but here they are differentiated. There is the scorpion, which is large and black and less venomous than its counterpart, the alacrán. The alacrán is smaller, usually a yellowish color, and much more venomous, though my gardener claims he has been stung many times and is immune to it.
Both of these creatures make their appearance during the dry season. As the weather changes from chilly to hot, they may look for a place to hide to keep warm. One such time, I lifted up a garbage bag in my kitchen and one started to run away before I stepped on it. Two other times, I found them on my bedroom floor – so tiny I thought they were specks of dirt until I got a closer look. One never forgets that silhouette !
A few nights ago, I was lying in bed getting ready to go to sleep and looked up at the ceiling. I was shocked to see that silhouette – on the ceiling ! I had never seen one up there, but there it was. My ceilings are about 12 feet high. I grabbed a can of Raid and started spraying for all it was worth, over and over again. Normally Raid will kill an insect or spider within a few seconds, but this little bugger would just straighten its tail and then curl it back up. Eventually, it fell to the floor and started running away !!!!! I couldn’t believe it was still alive! Normally, I would examine any creatures I find, but with the alacrán or scorpion – nope, nope, nope. Just stamp on it with my shoe or sandal and end it quickly.
And this is why I always wear shoes or hard-sole slippers or sandals in the house and on the property. Before taking a shower, I check the floor, walls and ceiling. And shake out my shoes before putting them on.
Well, anyway, I didn’t get hysterical, but I definitely was creeped out – a few inches to one side, it would have been directly over my bed. I’ve slept with the lights on the past few nights and inquired about fumigation.
But then, I was talking with some people and thought about it some more. In the 3½ years since I’ve lived in this house, I have seen less than 2 alacráns per year inside the house. Outside is another story, since they love the heat outdoors. Since the besuconas eat alacráns, either there have not been more than the 4 that I have seen in all that time, or the besuconas are doing their job by making a meal of them.
So I have decided NOT to fumigate, as the chemicals would also kill the besuconas. If in the future I see many more of those nasty little creatures, then I might consider fumigation, but until then, I will let my little house guests happily chow down on whatever pest they find.
So, until next time, I hope you have enjoyed this little biology class. And I would also like to add that even with the uninvited venomous guests, I still prefer to live here instead of ever living in snow country again. You may not agree with me, but to each his own.
Adios, and hasta luego !