Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Moral Dilemma

I'm having an internal struggle.
In the midst of my struggle I'm thankful that I have this compassionate husband, a healthy family, this beautiful farm, a solid faith and a place to lay my head.
However, tomorrow morning at 8 am I am going to make a call that I never expected to make and that is making me question all the efforts that I've made in my life to keep my family and myself from poisonous chemicals.  That's an awfully dramatic way of admitting that I am hiring a pest control company to take care of an infestation in the house, but in my state of irritation and exhaustion, it FEELS dramatic.
From where I sit typing this I can hear the beetles falling down the lower steps of the basement, their hard shells clacking on the hardwood.  Mark just came in the front door, cursing at how many are on the entry way steps.  I just came out of the kitchen from getting a drink of water and they skittered at my feet and I could hear them running around in the heating vents under the cupboards.  This morning when Mark took the milk bucket down from its hook in the front closet, which hangs away from any wall, there were 18 of the non-flying beetles in there.  The only place they could have come from is the light fixture directly above the bucket, which means they're in all the walls throughout the house. 
So what's the struggle? 

They're common ground beetles and according to everything I can find online, they're harmless.  They're actually beneficials and the main recommendation for when you find 'the odd one in your house' is to scoop them up and put them in your garden to control pests.  So they eat other bugs, but don't bother people.  It's true that we haven't seen a single earwig all summer, which is something I never thought I'd say, but at this point I'd take the odd earwig over these invaders. And they are definitely scared of people as they scurry away at top speed at the rumble of even the lightest footstep.
They only come out after dark and are attracted to light, so the front step is nearly alive with the shiny black shells.  So despite to invasion after 9pm, there is ZERO sign of anything during the day. 
Again, what is the struggle?
Well, since they're harmless and they're not around during the day, if it weren't for my socialization by society that bugs are inherently gross and dirty, should I really be paying someone to come in and kill them?  What would have been done in the time before chemical sprays?  If they're not REALLY doing any harm, what's the big deal?
The big deal is that they're gross.  They crunch under my feet in the middle of the night when I'm up with Sol.  They don't belong in here and are not in their natural environment.  Even if I could manage to make myself comfortable with them, I couldn't expect that out of anyone else which means I couldn't have people over to visit anytime after supper, which means I'm letting some stupid insect decide my social calendar and abilities, which is just demented.
So, where is the struggle again?
The struggle is that for the past 6 or 7 years I've dedicated a good chunk of my life to ridding my surroundings of synthetic chemicals.  I use all unscented soaps. I buy hippie toothpaste that makes me shiver, but has no fluoride. I look for organic cotton when buying linens and baby clothes. I spend a significant amount of our income on ensuring I buy organic or non-GMO only food.  I avoid eating meat I haven't met. I spend a HUGE part of my day preparing food that we've either produced, grown or at least prepared with confidence in it's chemical-freedom.  We've spent our entire farming careers learning how to farm WITHOUT chemicals.  We've got such a strong belief in the philosophy that a soil without chemicals can be so much healthier and productive, which in turn makes for healthier plants, animals and people.
Yet, I am going to invite a chemical into my home, throughout every room, that is capable of killing a hard shelled insect on contact.  And not only invite it, but pay for it and make way for it by moving all the furniture away from the wall so that the sprayer can get in every nook and cranny.  And then I'm going to leave for a couple days and then come back and go back to life as normal; eating my organic food and washing with my scentless soaps. 
The pest control guy, knowing that we run an organic farm, made sure I understood that he would be using an insecticide and wondered if I had tried glue boards.  I remembered last night as Mark and I tried tag teaming with me ahead, killing all I could see and him behind vacuuming them up, we must have killed 200 in 20 minutes.  Within 15 minutes you couldn't tell we had done anything at all.  How would I stick a glue board to a light fixture on the ceiling.
No.  I know this requires chemicals. And I know that chemicals have their place.  Hell, I'm not an idiot.  Technological advances have made for longer, better lives and chemicals have played their roles all sorts of important milestones in health, agriculture, you name it.  But here I am, after working so hard to keep chemicals out of my home, throwing out the welcome mat, eagerly, frantically, to have them come in and make my life 'normal' again.

Can you appreciate my struggle or is your skin still crawling with my description of their crunch under my bare feet?
Don't fear.  I am making the call, forking out the dough and obliterating the damn things.  They are going to spray one chemical on the outside of the house and another on the inside, all around the baseboards and 'wherever you think they're getting in m'am'.
I've always liked bugs and found them pretty interesting.  Following my plant science diploma at AC I actually had a few meetings with a couple advisors and profs about a masters and subsequent career in etymology.  So I usually don't mind insects and their various habits.  But they've crossed a line and my tolerance level has reached its max.  (That is not suggest that this is an ongoing problem that I'm only now addressing.  We've always had a couple of the critters in the lower level of basement bathroom, but it was just a couple and never much a problem.  This invasion just occurred suddenly last week and has gotten worse by the night.)
Anyone out there with a similar issue, ever?  They're not carpet beetles, despite Google's attempt to convince me otherwise.  It would seem that a ground beetle invasion in the house is actually incredibly rare (lucky me), but they can congregate outside of homes and that is apparently bothersome to many.  I'd be quite happy to leave them alone if they would just stay outside.  Too bad.  They have brought the wrath of a tired woman down and will suffer the dire consequences.

Off to try to sleep. Hope this finds you free of any unwanted guests, six legged or otherwise.


  1. My heart aches for you as you have pondered the problem and finding a solution. I do hope that they don't return in a few weeks. We have had a few now and again but nothing like you have.

  2. Organic farming seems to bring these challenges into sharp relief. Your comment about "the line" is apt. You wouldn't dream of chemicals until the situation is extreme and way, way beyond where most people would have drawn their line. Even thinking of the ground beetles as beneficials is beyond the imagination of most, who would have sprayed liberally without thought.
    We have the same challenges with predators-- how many chickens do you lose before killing the fox or penning in the girls? Both are options we'd never consider not too long ago.
    Hope you're sleeping better.

  3. Your struggle with this is a credit to you, as Jeff says. It seems to me that you have honored your principles and are taking this step only as a last resort, rather than surrendering your home to the beetles.


  4. Are you sure they are not darkling beetles, the larval form of which is the much-farmed mealworm? If so,gather them up, breed them, and they make a superb winter protein meal for your chickens. Lots of info on the web for how to do it.

  5. By the way I too had an infestation I had to call the pest control for. It was a whole bunch of yellow jackets in the house wall. About five nests in total. Anyway the guy used pyrethrum, which is the extract of a South American chrysanthemum. So the chemical that killed them was ... organic. (Now I'm growing that flower from seed.)