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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bug OFF! More creepy crawly critters I’ve known in Israel.

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If you're easily creeped out, maybe you'd better not read on.

Still here?

Good.  Because if you’re planning to move to Israel, you’re going to have to think about insects.

As I write this, I am literally pecking ants off my computer screen.  It's ANT SEASON here in Israel.

The first year we were here, a friend told us, "After Pesach, the ants come." 

I didn’t think she was lying to us, but really?  In Toronto, insects don't have a schedule.  Sure enough, though, days after Pesach, they arrived.  Right now, we’re in our second year, and, yes, in the middle of our second invasion by ants.

My 7-year-old son loves this, because it lets him make up rude rhymes for the song "The Ants Go Marching," in various multiples.  Me, not so much.

Ants, of course, are not the worst of it when you live in a hot desert-type country like Israel.  I guess the worst-case scenario would be the friend who got stung by a scorpion moving some furniture in his house.

Most of the pests here are, thank God, not life-threatening.  But they can be very, very annoying.

The most common insect pests that I and people I know have had to deal with are:

  • - Head lice
  • - Jukim (cockroaches)
  • - Mosquitos
  • - Ants
  • - Food moths

Compared to my friend's scorpion (which, I know, is not TECHNICALLY an insect), most of these are small and relatively harmless.

I've been told that one reason almost every child gets lice here is that you're not required to keep kids home if they’re found to have them.  In Canada, that would never fly.  (Neither do the lice.)

Fortunately for kids, it also means that there isn't the same stigma. 

My daughter mentioned to me that a girl in her class had lice, and it was no big deal (apart from my stern lecture about sharing hair things and keeping her hair up at school and with friends).

Cockroaches (Jukim) are also less stigmatized.  Almost everybody has them, so it doesn't mean your house is dirty.  They're still disgusting as all get out, though:  brown, shiny, and way too fast to smack.  We have seen some big ones (like 1 inch) here, but fortunately not in our apartment.

(Despite the stereotype that they love kitchens, there is nowhere jukim won't go.  We find more in the bathroom than in the kitchen, but I have also spotted one running across my bedsheets.)

We've had weird experiences with the mosquitos, which, by the way, also have a season here.  They start in the late winter, once there are enough puddles around for them to breed in.  And mostly finish by late spring, when those puddles dry up.

But I almost didn't notice the weird thing about the mosquitos until my daughter pointed it out:  the bites here are temporary.

I don't know about the whole country, but around here, if you get skeeter-bit, it'll itch like crazy - for about half an hour.  Then, it goes away.  I remember mosquito bites that itched for weeks back in Toronto.  The mosquitos here seem smaller, and maybe that's why the bites are less serious.

(However, even a small mosquito can still transmit West Nile Virus, so it's still worth installing screens and protecting yourself.)

I wish I had some great strategies to share when it comes to dealing with the other insect pests here, like those lines of ants marching up my screen, and pantry moths.

Alas, I don't.  With the ants, we bleach their trails and block their holes, and try to convince them that Pesach is long over already.  We’re grateful that they’re not the bitey kind, but they've overstayed their post-chag welcome.

For the moths, our strategy is mainly search-and-destroy.  We inspect all our spices before I use them: ditto for rice and other grain products.

I’ve learned to do this the hard way.  There is no feeling quite as horrible as labouring over a delicious, creamy tuna-mushroom-noodle casserole and discovering that you've just sprinkled it with bread crumbs that are moving on their own.

Okay, actually, I'm guessing that particular horrible feeling still beats getting stung by a scorpion, here in the land of milk, honey... and creepy crawly critters.

(After I wrote this, I realized I just wrote another insect-based rant back in January.  It’s all good – now you can click through and read that one, too!)

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


[ants photo credit:  Balaram Mahalder via Wikimedia]

[Israel flag photo credit:  Texasranger01 via Wikimedia]

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