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Since retiring from The Kalona News, I’ve become a snowbird in Mesa, Ariz. It’s quite the change from rural Iowa.
There is the weather. Yes, it is a dry heat. The desert is nature’s way of trying to mummify you.
I used to scoff at wimps who needed to apply body lotion and lip balm. Within a week in Mesa with zero humidity and temps in the high 90s, the calluses on my feet began painfully cracking and flaking and my lips began chapping.
It’s the next thing to leprosy. Even for me, it’s difficult drinking enough beer to remain hydrated.
It was fun in junior high to shuffle across a carpet and zap an unsuspecting friend on the ear with static electricity. It’s not so amusing now.
With the low humidity, a carpet is not needed to build up a charge. I feel like one of those fearful lab rats that are subjected to unpredictable electrical shocks. It’s like being constantly zapped with tiny cattle prods, and I find myself unconsciously shying from grabbing a door handle or anything metal.
Then there is the area wildlife that abounds even among the countless old people ghettos we like to call RV resorts. I once saw a coyote running along one of the grassy channels that handle the rare storm waters.
But the most common creatures are a carp called white amurs that swim the irrigation canals, roof rats, scorpions and plain-looking great tailed grackles with delightful songs that frequent mall parking lots.
Google “Mesa roof rats” and the most numerous websites deal with pest extermination. The pesky invasive species has a tail longer than its body and likes to climb along power lines, up palm trees and over (and in) roofs.
They eat fruit, garbage and house wiring and insulation. They first appeared in the area in 2001 and are said to be rapidly growing in numbers. I have yet to see one.
Then we have the scorpions. They too are a subject for many pest control websites.
“Scorpions are survival machines so regular pest control doesn’t kill them,” warns one site.
There are several scorpion species in the area, and many are not poisonous. Unfortunately, a very common one is the small bark scorpion that is also the most dangerous and likes to climb walls and trees.
Local TV news programs have been warning now that the nights are getting cooler, the scorpions will seek the warmth of home interiors. They are capable of squeezing through the slightest cracks.
A rather whimsical hobby for some of the resort residents is nighttime scorpion hunting. The main tool is an ultraviolet flashlight. Chemicals in a scorpion exoskeleton glow like a black light poster when in the beam of a UV light.
It’s kind of like hunting neon night crawlers, except an earthworm is not going to leap out and inject you with a painful venom.
Part of an extermination plan includes getting rid of insects like crickets that are a food source for scorpions. If you hear a cricket around your home, you’ll sooner or later attract a hungry scorpion.
I have heard a few chirping in my shed.
I’ve been thinking of hunting scorpions much like you do a man-eating lion – staking out a bleating goat and waiting for the big cat to be lured in. I’ll capture a cricket and tie a thread to it, duct tape the other end to one of my patio stones and wait silently for the cricket cheeping to draw in a ravenous scorpion.
Now and then I’ll turn on my Scorpion Master 52 LED UV flashlight to make sure one isn’t sneaking up from behind.
I’m still deciding upon what method I’ll use for actually doing away with the nasty little creatures.
This is Arizona, so I’m assuming most of the local residents pack a Smith & Wesson XVR 460 Magnum (hurling a hunk of lead at 2,300 feet per second). One must remember that I am in Maricopa County, home of the crazy former sheriff Joe Arpio.
There are a couple Wellman natives here and later I’ll get a photo of them for the paper. Until then, I’ll be thinking of everyone when it’s snowing in Kalona, and I’m poolside with a beer – and my UV flashlight.
Dan Ehl is the retired news editor of The News.