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A Visit From the Wetapunga

June 9, 2010

I’ve been busy over the past couple of weeks working on a web site for our farm revegetation project and I plan to unveil it next week.  But the past few days have made me rethink the whole concept of Me In A Rural Context.

I mentioned recently that we had to deal with a bovine incursion at the farm.  I don’t know whether it’s worse or not, but the most recent incursion, and this time into the farm house itself, has been in the form of mice.  The paint is hardly dry on the house and we’ve already got mice!

They tell me that when you are on a farm you have to get used to these sorts of things.  That rodent infestations are not a reflection on your hygiene.  Mice in the house are sort of like flies or spiders.

Now they tell me.

We were up at the farm recently and I was doing farm stuff in the garage when I thought I saw something that looked suspiciously like mouse poop.  No sooner had I bent down for a hanta virus risking closer look, than the silence was rent by a shriek from my wife in the house.  A mouse had streaked across the floor.

We went to the hardware store to arm ourselves with some traps.  Lest you accuse me of overkill, I won’t tell you how many we bought.  My rationale was that I didn’t know exactly where the mouse was coming in and where it was spending its time, so a sort of carpet of mousetraps seemed like a wise approach.

Within hours of laying the traps the intruder was dispatched.  Poor thing never had a chance.

Case closed.

Or so I thought.  The next afternoon when I heard the unmistakable shriek again.  Apparently he had brought a friend.

We were heading back to town that evening, so I baited the traps before we left.  We wouldn’t be back for a few days so I didn’t know whether to hope for success or not.  The only thing worse than disposing of a dead mouse is disposing of a dead mouse that has been dead for a few days.

Last night we returned to the farm.  We pulled into the garage and there, obligingly, was a dead mouse lying on the floor.  I didn’t know whether he’d had a heart attack on seeing the gauntlet of traps I’d lain out or what, but I wasn’t going to complain.

After disposing the corpse in the newly christened mouse cemetery, I went into the house itself and found another dead mouse in one of the traps.

Clearly, an invasion was in progress.

I disposed of that one and got down to the wonderfully fun job of getting rid of all the mouse poop.  It’s not a fun job and the worst thing is that you find it everywhere.  I kept asking myself how did they get up there?

Once the sweeping up was done it was time to do some mopping.  I went into the garage to get the implements and glanced at a box in the corner.

How did those twigs get there? I asked myself.

A closer inspection revealed that what was sticking out from behind the box weren’t twigs at all.  They were the back legs of another thing you don’t ever want to encounter anywhere, much less in the house.

What next? I asked myself for the third or fourth time that night.

If you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings you may have heard of Weta Workshops.  They are the people who do all the fancy computer graphics in movies.  Do you know how Weta got its name?

It’s named after the weta, a giant bug indigenous to New Zealand.  The full name for the giant weta is wetapunga which in Maori means ‘the god of ugly things.’  It’s well named.

A weta basically looks like a giant grasshopper.  Except that they are 8 inches long (actually only 4 inches if you don’t count the feet and antennae).

So finding one of those in a dark corner of the garage at night after having battled back an onslaught of mice was almost enough to turn me back into a committed urbanite.

Although they look hideous, wetas are a very good thing.  For one thing, they are indigenous and endangered (then why are they in my garage??) and they help spread native vegetation, which is the whole point of our project.

So we escorted him outside (at arm’s length) to continue a normal weta life.

But I was wondering.

I found the weta in a corner not far from where the dead mouse lay.   The mouse didn’t show any signs of trauma but I wondered if he had tried to mix it up with the weta and came out the loser?   I mean, wouldn’t this scare you?

Wetas 1, Mice 0.

And, by the way, Humans 4, Mice 0.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2010 1:24 pm

    This photo starting a coughing fit.

    You guys need a cat. That will solve all the problems. Today my cat, Bobb, left a dead snake baby on the mat. Yesterday, a rat.

    If in New Zealand, Bobb would have left “twigs” many times.

  2. June 9, 2010 1:34 pm

    So.. Is that your hand holding the Wetapunga? If it is I think you’ll probably do just fine in the rural setting.

    It reminds me of the trip my parents took our family on to El Salvador. We drove our van from MN to El Salvador and back in 1977 over our Christmas break from school. One night we woke up to my sister screaming because something was crawling on her.

    Dad turned on the light in the hotel room that all seven of us were sleeping long enough to see big bugs scatter everywhere in the room. I don’t know if they were cockroaches or not but you didn’t see them in the light, they were about an inch and a half in diameter with a hard shell and extremely fast runners.

    The next night as we settled into our next hotel my other sister started screaming as she unpacked her suitcase. Apparently we brought a few friends from the night before along with us on our trip.

    Good luck with the mice! Been there, done that!

    • June 10, 2010 8:43 am

      Although I’d like to say that I’m the one holding the weta, honesty compels me to admit that it is not. That is an entymologist who does that sort of thing for a living and you couldn’t pay me enough to do that! I still have a way to go before I’m fully rural!

      Your Latin America adventure sounds fun!

      • June 11, 2010 1:43 am

        I like honesty. If it had been me who discovered the weta I would not be holding it either but I would have grabbed the camera for sure.

        As an elementary teacher I have had a number of interesting things put up to my face for me to look at by my students over the years. Some okay, some not so okay.

        Show and tell days were always interesting. You never knew what you were going to get.

  3. June 9, 2010 3:17 pm

    Get a cat. At least the critters will be displayed on you doorstep – and no poop in the cutlery drawer.

    One weekend in Claremont, Ontario, in an old farmhouse I lived in, we trapped 13 of the prettiest little mice you’ve ever seen. They’d come in from outside to avoid the cold in winter, but the scratching in the old walls was driving us nuts. We didn’t get a cat, but the unlucky thirteenth must have been the end of it!


  4. June 9, 2010 6:46 pm

    Whoa! What a creature! Kind of lobster-cross. My cousin, who lives on a farm, could have written this exact blog post except she’d have used the word “rat” where you’ve used “mouse.” Should I have mentioned that? 🙂

  5. June 9, 2010 6:49 pm

    PS. Like that your posts are now on the home page. I’ve updated the link from my blog.

  6. June 10, 2010 2:41 am

    Hi Thomas,
    A most enjoyable post as usual. Life on the farm sounds real fun!! That bug is the ugliest thing I have ever seen and I get why it’s called the God of Ugly things!! how you can bear to hold it is beyond me. urgh! As for the mice….aawww poor wee critters!! Altho I do get your point about the mouse poo, yuck. Reminds me of an incident that happend many years ago (no I am not going to say how many, that would age me), but at the time, newly-married, my husband and I lived in a caravan (nope, not gypsies) which was the done thing in South Africa in those days (a craze). Anyway, we had loads of wee creatures visiting us and one day I came home from work and found a little mouse no bigger than my thumb lying on the carpet….still alive but with a broken leg. 😦 It broke my heart and I tried desperately to help it live, resting in a box filled with soft stuff and feeding & watering it for a couple of days. But eventually I had to concede defeat and drowned the poor thing. I cried for days!!! 🙂 My husband needless to say washed his hands (metaphorically) of the whole crazy episode. So I guess I would be a useless farmer(ess). 🙂
    Love your posts.

    • June 10, 2010 8:52 am

      Thanks Cindy. Don’t worry, that isn’t me holding it. No way!

      How do you treat a mouse with a broken leg? A toothpick splint?

  7. June 10, 2010 7:56 am

    I always had an occasional mouse and a few roaches in all my apartments, but they never increase in numbers. Also, every time I have a plant, it withers in fairly short order. I’m naturally protected against infestations of all kinds, because I exude the kind of energy which repels life in general. (Hopefully, it’ll work to keep collectors at bay as well.)

    • June 10, 2010 8:53 am

      You could hire yourself out–sort of like an exorcist.

      • June 10, 2010 12:48 pm

        Not a bad idea. And the nice thing is, I wouldn’t have to do anything beyond showing up. Then I could just sit there and read or blog or do whatever until all the vermin has fled or expired.

  8. June 10, 2010 3:01 pm

    If I see a weta, the next thing I see is the flight back home.

  9. June 11, 2010 4:08 am

    I took the cow’s point of view in your bovine post, but I will take neither the mouse’s nor the Wetapunga’s.

    Wetapunga: What a name. Sounds like a Latin dance.

  10. June 12, 2010 1:05 am

    One of those was in your garage and you helped it back outside?

    You are obviously prepared for the rural context. A lesser man (me) would have backed the car out of the garage and burned it down.

  11. June 12, 2010 8:11 am

    If you find more of those, just paint them orange, and sell them as lobsters.

  12. June 12, 2010 8:06 pm

    In answer to your question; yes, yes that would scare the sanity right out of me. I believe that if I saw that thing in my house the authorities would find me two weeks later naked and incoherent in the freezer section of a supermarkato curled up next to a melting tub of ice cream and weeping uncontrollably.

  13. June 14, 2010 1:32 pm

    Wow. When I skimmed through your post and saw that picture – before reading the comments and doing a wiki search on these things – I thought you were running some sort of Photoshopped hoax blog.

    Wow. Just. Wow.

    I’m originally from Ohio, USA and have to say that a good thing about cold weather is that we don’t really have giant insects… never realized how luck I was.

  14. June 15, 2010 2:36 pm

    Great mouse story. I was born and raised on a farm in North Dakota and I have a million and one mouse stories all of which involve screaming bloody murder.

  15. June 17, 2010 11:00 am

    I didn’t know dinosaurs still existed….EEK!

  16. June 18, 2010 10:31 am

    Wow, and I thought Texas was known for the biggest critters! We do have something similar (called a weddoe, I believe) but nothing on such a colossal scale. Our mosquitoes, however, need their own landing strips.

  17. March 16, 2011 1:15 am

    I’m completely phlegmatic about mice but that movie-monster grasshopper would have driven me to drug use. Or made me think I had already committed it.

  18. Len Skuta permalink
    November 22, 2011 4:00 am

    The mouse had to have had an attack after seeing the Weta. It’s ugly enough to do in anything.

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