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The Dangers Of Living In The Rural South

If you live in the northern United States, and you’re thinking about making the warm move to the southern United States, you might want to think again.

Especially if you want to live out in the country. We have some dangerous critters down here. And not just the beer-drinking rednecks who believe that eating healthy means taking the cheese off of a Big Mac. Oh, no. At least they have enough sense to stay out of somebody’s house when they’re not wanted.

Unlike fire ants, scorpions, and tarantula hawk wasps.

One night about three summers ago, I awoke to the feeling of a stinging, then burning, sensation on my back. J awoke in the next instant and verified that indeed, a fire ant had decided to try me out for a midnight snack. But fire ants are easy to kill, their bites easy to treat.

Not so for the critter that I encountered inside our composting toilet a few weeks ago. Now, when you use dirt to cover up your business, you’re going to end up with a bug in the toilet every once in a while. I’ve even had to coax a couple of wolf spiders out. And of course, house flies try every chance they can to get into the bucket. (We can’t smell the nasty, but they can.)

But even an off-grid homesteader doesn’t expect to see a wasp inside a compost toilet. Especially when the lid has been closed on it for a while.

However, that’s exactly what I saw that day. And not just any wasp. Not a relatively benign red-orange wasp, or a moody yellow jacket. Oh, no.

It was a tarantula hawk wasp. I immediately recognized  it by the way it was flitting its black wings as it walked around on top of the dirt.

In case you are unaware, tarantula hawks have the most painful sting of any stinging insect in North America. Can you imagine what might have happened if I had sat down to do my business, unaware, with that wasp underneath me?

No? Well, I’m not going to help you, because I don’t want to think about it!

The day did not end well for the wasp.

I thought I’d experienced the worst of close-ups with stinging critters. But my rural southern U.S. life wasn’t over!

The other night, I woke up to the feeling of something crawling on my left shoulder, just below my neck. That in itself was kind of crazy, because I was lying on my left side. Somehow, the intruder had managed to insinuate itself in the small space that my position left between the shoulder and neck.

Now, I ask you, what would you do if you felt something crawling on you in the middle of the night? Perhaps you’ve already experienced that glorious sensation, and know for a fact what you not only would do, but have done.

You probably freaked and brushed the thing off.

That’s what I did. I lifted myself up just enough to brush the thing away.

And it bit me.

At least, I thought it had bit me. It felt like a bite.

Things that bite or sting me don’t get to live. So the chase was on!

I reached for my flashlight to find the offender, and after shining it around for a couple of seconds, I found it clinging to the wall just a few inches above my pillow.

A baby scorpion.

At the same moment, the feeling on my shoulder intensified. Began feeling like a hot knife sticking into my skin.

“It’s a scorpion!” I told my husband, who was awake by now. “Help me!” I asked for help because those little buggers are known for skedaddling away pretty quickly. And I did not want to lose sight of him. For obvious reasons.

I wanted to squish the little bugger, but I wasn’t about to use my hand. For the same obvious reason. Luckily, I was holding onto a hard object.

SLAM! went the front end of my flashlight, right between the tail and body of the unwelcome visitor. I’d never tried to kill a scorpion before, and didn’t realize their bodies were so hard. So I pressed with all my might as the pain from the sting began to slide toward my shoulder joint and slither down my upper arm.

With his flashlight and a pair of tweezers, J came to my rescue, grabbing the scorpion with the tweezers and taking it away to parts unknown. When he picked it up, I saw its white guts oozing out in all directions. Good. It was dead.

After disposing of the critter, J brought me the helichrysum and peppermint (I think; maybe it was geranium) essential oils that I requested. I doctored up the sting, and the pain was gone in a few minutes.

Gone with the scorpion. Don’t tell B. While he lives to torture innocent grasshoppers and crickets, he thinks you’re a spawn of the devil if you kill a scorpion or centipede.

Go figure.

And then, go figure if you really and truly want to live in the rural Southern U.S. This life is not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

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