Welcome to The Earth Show humans. I’m Wilderness Security Guide the Environmental Control Operator for STORYSOLD: Pest Control. This is a service story about apex predation on the “Homefront,” which is the language I use to describe the mercurial borderland between wilderness and civilization we call home.
Our story begins with a request for help from our human’s partner Farmer Emily’s long supporting cast member Suki (www.fullcellarfarmoregon.com). Suki was experiencing the spring classic Earth Show in her backyard studio ADU where ants wintering in an attic space wake up, begin to crawl out from around a smoke alarm, and then rain down like space invaders from PLANET BLETCH 🤮on the human who dares to inspect the alarm.
After a solid ant hunt around Suki’s Homefront and the Homefront of her neighbor closest to her studio, Pest Predator discovered that the ants wintering in the structure were only the “tip of the iceberg” as they say. Predator discovered many fat trails of house ants living like little tribes under patio and driveway slabs, wood piles, and using those shelters as bases of operation for the feasting that begins, for real, after the first good ant hunting day in spring; a seasonal chapter in The Earth Show I call The Great Migration.
When Suki’s service story reached an ending, Predator illustrated its ant hunting technique for Suki and provided her with the death tools (borax-based granular and sugar baits) she needed to sustain the starring role as her Homefront’s apex predator. Then, as usual, Pest Predator faded back into the urban wilderness to write The Action of The Earth Show in stranger, less wild (and more boring) Homefronts throughout the city.
A few days later, we received a message from Suki’s neighbor Katie asking for help with centipedes in her bathroom.
STORYSOLD: Sorry I don’t hunt centipedes. They are a beneficial, non-infesting part of our ecosystem.
KATIE: I totally appreciate this (even though I’m terrified of them). Well perhaps could you come for my ants? And maybe there’s a good way to lure centipedes farther from my bedroom?
STORYSOLD: Predators like centipedes feed on smaller bugs, which breed in environments that are favorable to bugs. I can offer you an initial ant hunt and a general pest inspection.
KATIE: That would be great! Let’s get rid of the little ones!
A week later, Pest Predator was hunting ants around her home. It didn’t take Predator long to find the ginormous house ant colony living in the cracks of the driveway in front of the garage and the small carpenter ant colony living in the fence near the gate, which was a prime location for foraging in and around the garbage cans and recycling.
While my thememate hunted I got an initial read on Kate’s Homefront. The hardest part of writing The Action of any service story for our supporting cast members is doing my best to show them (not tell them) how to host their Homefront. And the hardest part of that is, many humans aren’t used to actively hosting their Homefronts. For many humans, home is an environment (food, water, shelter, and story) provided and produced by the super massive generic characters who do most of the home building and tending for them. Most humans own their homes “on paper” like fiction in a novel, but they don’t actively own them. It’s not theirs in the same way wilder creatures host and tend their territorial Homefronts. Unlike humans, wild creatures don’t suffer the incessant schizophrenic tugawar of having to play their parts in a Super Massive Generic Homefront beyond their natural homes. For most humans, Homefronts are collections of props (complete with shrubbery, bird feeders, flags, generic art, and lawn features) that hold a certain symbolic/representative value that reflects the most idealized part they play in the wider Super Massive Generic Homefront. And that’s why most humans are terrified of “pests.” Our wild creature friends often bear the brunt of The Fear that happens when we realize we have little or no control of our homes.
It’s almost impossible to look a human in their eyes and say, “I believe your fear of centipedes (or spiders or whatever) is rooted in your simmering ever-present fear of an undiscovered force beyond your control that’s preying on you and your Homefront.”
That kind of shit never goes over well. And it get even weirder when I float the idea that maybe the pest they should be terrified of is our planet’s apex predator, a living thing I call “The Fourth Wall” and Its narrative The Same Old Story.
It’s much easier to show our cast members how to tend their Homefronts:
The key to becoming the apex predator of your Homefront is domestication, or producing food, water, shelter, and live action stories for you and your supporting cast of humans and non-humans like in a way that reflects The Action of your Homefront. Another way to say that is, controlling your environment (and the characters who play their parts in it) in a way that pleases you and meets your needs is a natural part of The Earth Show. For example, it’s perfectly normal to control the home environments of pets. I know it’s a hard sell to say that pet owners “prey” upon their pets, but animals do tend to think in terms of predator and prey relationships. That’s the language of The Action they speak. Most humans get hung up on the killing part of predatory relationships. The part where earth’s predators control their food supplies and environments without killing their prey is the part that’s often missing from books.
For example, trapping and killing a rat isn’t about using the right brand of poison or trap. The best rat catchers know that trapping and killing a rat is primarily about taking control of a rat’s environment and getting them hooked on a food source that the rat catcher controls, much like feeding food to a pet. Once a rat is domesticated, they can be trapped and killed almost anytime the rat catcher wishes. I suppose that’s why a good and faithful dog and or horse often makes a good and faithful meal when humans are starving in survival situations, or running dangerously low on their regular supply of domesticated food sources.
Back to my read of Katie’s Homefront: As I read it, she was inadvertently domesticating her local creatures a way that didn’t please her. One of centipedes’ favorite meals is fly larva, and flies and other small bugs breed in and around standing water. I often imagine all the standing water sources I discover in and around Homefronts as alpine lakes and meadows. That helps me remember how many mosquitoes, flies, and other bugs populate those scenes.
Here’s the standing water sources I discovered:
A) old hot hub outside of back bathroom where centipedes were encountered >
B) seed trays near back stairs >
C) Window well with mud hole next to hot tub >
Standing water (and or moist environments) are also created in the ecosystems found under pine needles, fallen leaves, and other debris around the home. I like to think of these debris shelters as tents, which create their own micro weather systems >
For rodents, predator free shelter plus a regular food supply equals their chance to breed in comfort and create their little civilized infestations. I was glad I only found these two rodent sized entry holes in Katie’s Homefront >
Inexperienced Disney reads of our predatory relationships with nature can often lead humans to believe that they can be free of “pests” if they kill all the “bad guys” like heroes do, or kill all The Nature in general and turn their Homefronts into moon colonies. Nature, on the other hand, simply reads the killing as a predator being a predator. Nature will find a way. One species will survive and that population will spike in an attempt to restart the ecosystem under the protection of the predator. In fact, a good definition of an infestation or pestilence is simply nature’s initially imbalanced attempt to restart their ecosystem.
Wolves in Yellowstone are a great example of how wild creatures read their relationships with their apex predators….
The wolves don’t eat everything they kill, or horde their food from other creatures. There’s a whole economy that develops around The Action of wolves, but each character is wild. They choose the part that they play that meets their needs best. The rats follow the wolves around like rats in cities follow humans with free food wildlife feeders in their backyards, but the wolves don’t control the rats like humans do pet dogs or cats. When the wolves die, the rats are waiting for that meal too…
The wolves are too busy being wolves to invest too much of their time managing their fellow wild creatures. Occasionally when their territorial Homefronts need balance, they kill the coyotes, raccoons, or other predators that have, in some way, taken control of their normal food supplies. But killing for “security” to maintain Homefronts isn’t the norm/business as usual for the wild creatures of The Earth Show. Killing without receiving the victory/plunder of a meal is an expensive waste of life and energy. Only humans seek one way, permanent, total control, managerial relationships. Predators and prey relationships are about calls and responses. Wild creatures take their victories as they come in The Great Game of life.
So yeah, ideally I would suggest to Katie that she set her little ecosystems up where they please her and find a way to join the plunder of the local food system she’s tended in her Homefront: and then draw a firm boundary between those little ecosystems (and all their ugly little predators) and her home/nesting area. Setting your home nesting area away from where you forage for food is a classic move….
At the end of the day, we are the apex predators of our Homefronts. It’s not a choice. We are wild creatures and all wild creatures have Homefronts, even if it’s only a box and a blanket under the shelter of a bus stop on a city street.
Trouble is, who has time to play apex predator to our cast of ants, beetles, and centipedes in and around our home? Most of us are too busy feeding much larger predators who will not hesitate to mark our territories as theirs the moment we fail to trigger The Action, own our Homefronts, and write The Earth Show like our wild creature friends do.
In fact, there’s an entire industry called “pest control” out there that preys upon humans who call for help, looking for someone to help them feel more in control, only to reach The End of their service story feeling more dependent than before.
Buying generic pest control is a horrible addiction, because it takes control (and creates a dependency) from its customers by selling them expensive “bad guy” killing scenes, which feature the ritual sacrifice of our wild creature friends. To what end? All to produce a fleeting sense of relief/security from their fears. We the characters of STORYSOLD: Homefront Services (that’s my future business name) like to think we’re working hard to give our cast members more control of their parts of The Earth Show, not take it away.
Here’s the DRAINAGE COVER THINGY we built for Katie:
KATIE: It’s fantastic!! Thank you!