Florida is the most inclusive state in the nation. The Sunshine State welcomes not just people from all over, but also species that you’ve only encountered in nightmares, like termites, bats, snakes, and reptiles. If you want to live here, you need to know what you are getting into, though I have proof that the people of Florida are friendly to all these animals and insects. Take termites for example. After I signed the contract with the University of Miami, they broke the news to me: EVERYBODY has termites in South Florida. We promptly hired a reputable pest control company whose employees wore very nice uniforms and whose schedule was totally unpredictable. So friendly was this company to termites that for several years they totally ignored the fact that they had eaten 5 feet of fascia over our garage.
Needless to say, up until that day I had no idea what fascia was, in any language. As I was trying to explain the situation over the phone to the pest control company, they kept throwing at me words like sheathing, soffit, rafters, truss, underlayment, fascia and dormer which made me feel like an idiot. Several google trips later, I was able to confirm that it was the FASCIA that had been eaten. Do people learn these words in school? Do they take roofing 101 in Florida? Do they learn about termites in kindergarten?
When I confronted the neatly uniformed, bilingual, pest control general, he said that termites don’t do that kind of damage. They were still covering up for the insects. At that point I called two more pest control companies, and Manolo, my friend the builder. No question about it, unanimous judgment: termites.
To make sure that no opportunity goes wasted, we decided to fire the pest control company and go instead with a “green” provider. The latter explained to us that it’s all organic and environmentally friendly. So friendly was their treatment of pests that for several months we saw an increase in the number of roaches munching on our fruit overnight. When I politely asked our green supplier if roaches can get used to their treatment, he said that they change the product every time to prevent inoculation. Oh, I got it. January was vanilla, February was citrus, and March was honeysuckle flavor. Our roaches couldn’t be happier.
In an effort to be supportive, Ora, my wife, had suggested that perhaps it was rodents and not cockroaches that had been eating our fruit. Our cleaning lady concurred, motivating me to sell the house and move to Alberta, which has been rodent-free for 50 years. I did do my homework.
I consulted again with our green pest control guy, who said there was a definitive way to determine the culprit: Poop. Cockroach poop has a vertical edge; rat poop ends diagonally. He went on and on about sphincter anatomy in rodents and insects and the evolutionary causes of their differences.
Just when I thought that I knew way too much about insects in Florida, I had to take a magnifying glass to examine their fecal matter. I wanted to prove to Ora and our cleaning lady that there were no rodents in my house.
Sure enough, the poop, which was all over our fruit plate, had a distinct vertical edge, which proved beyond reasonable doubt that we had plenty of roaches. As if that wasn’t strong enough evidence, I picked up a grapefruit from the plate and out came crawling, from a hole the size of an igloo, a giant cockroach.