Living in Austin–The Critters


So, Austin is hot. And hot places have one thing in common: there are lots of critters. It only makes sense since it rarely gets cold enough to kill all the bugs and snakes.

Yes, there are scorpions here. If you live in a house less than a year or two old, there will still be residual scorpions hanging around. They tend to be tiny and pretty harmless. But scorpions are some of the creepiest-looking creatures around. I object to them on appearance alone. They are not as plentiful as they are in Arizona, for example, but most people have found one or two around their houses.

There are also poisonous snakes. At girls’ camp last year, India saw two Rattlesnakes and a Coral snake. They were all promptly killed by camp staff and the Coral snake was put in a jar on display so the girls would know what one looked like. The Coral resembles it’s cousin, the Milk snake, so everyone here learns the way to tell them apart:

Red on black, friend to Jack
Red on yellow, kill a fellow

You’d better not get bitten by a Coral snake, because the anti-venom is no longer being made. There’s not much demand for it, apparently. So don’t touch one or you’re on your own.

Oh, there are tarantulas too. What’s not to like about gigantic hairy spiders? Most people spot these outside, not inside. I don’t know if they spin webs or what, but just thinking about them is making my skin crawl so lets move along.

Fire Ants. If you are unfamiliar with these, lucky you! You’ll find out about them right quick when you move to Texas. They are teensy, hideous reddish ants that bite like the dickens. They bite first, which is unpleasant, but the worst thing is that they inject venom which makes a little lump like a hard blister. And that lump itches like a mosquito bite on fire. They live in the ground (duh. They’re ants) and everybody has them in their yards. You can sprinkle Fire Ant killer on your grass which makes them move to your neighbor’s yard for a couple of months. They are kind of like the Texas equivalent of mosquitoes. The sad thing about fire ants is that they aren’t even from here. Some thoughtless importers brought them from South America back in the 1930’s. Thanks a million.

Mosquitoes. We don’t have many of these in Austin. You can sit on your porch at night without getting bitten hardly at all. See, it’s not all bad here!

Bats. If you’ve been to Austin you have probably seen the amazingly cool sight of the millions of bats that live downtown under the Congress Bridge take off at dusk for their nightly bug-killing spree. We have the world’s largest colony of Mexican Free-Tailed bats. That might seem creepy but if you consider that they eat over a ton of bugs every night, they don’t seem so bad after all. August and September are the best months for bat-watching.

Armadillos-These are the weirdest little animals. They look like some sort of steampunk invention. They are nocturnal which means most people only seem them dead on the road. But if you happen to see one, you will be amazed at how cool-looking they are. My friend Lisa had armadillos living under her deck and said they also squeal like pigs. Weird. But don’t touch them–they are the only living creature besides humans that carry leprosy!

The good news is that the closer to civilization you live, the few creepy crawlies you’ll find. Most people in my neighborhood have had run-ins with scorpions and tarantulas, especially those in houses that back up to the woods and pond. But we back up to a busy street. It means that our house was cheaper (yay) but noisier (boo). The noise really hasn’t been a big deal and the cars and cement are not very hospitable for anything but fire ants. So we have yet to see any nasty spiders or scorpions (yay).

If the bugs and snakes make you think that you can’t handle it in Austin, you need to keep in mind that your run-ins with them will be minimal (except for fire ants maybe). I have yet to see any poisonous snakes. So as I tell my children, stop whining! It’s not a big deal.

| Filed under Bad Things, Texas, Yuck

8 thoughts on “Living in Austin–The Critters

  1. Very informative and interesting post! I would die if I ever saw a tarantula anywhere NEAR me. I avidly avoid that section of the pet store. I kind of wanted to die just reading about that part…

    How big are the armadillos?

  2. Have you told Mister about he Tarantuals yet? He'll probably be screeching out of the state if he's hears about this…

  3. You know, that Armadillo is really quite beautiful and sleek in a sort of dinosaurish/tank kind of way.

    I have, thankfully, never met any of the aforementioned creatures except fire-ants, whose nasty bites itched my legs for 4 months!

    Fascinating post!

  4. Gosh, our scorpion sightings in our house would be more like in the 30s or 40s, but we live next to the woods. Don't forget the giant red-headed centipedes, which are also poisonous. I had one come into my kitchen through the vent of the microwave from outside when Kelly was out of town. It creeped me out so badly! And we have a lot of opossums in our neighborhood at night too. And we're only ten minutes away from you. Feel free to come see more creepy crawlies any time.

  5. You forgot the chiggers! Never walk in the grass after dark. Your legs will be a mass of itchy bumps for weeks! And I didn't know armadillos carried leprosy. They're so cute!

  6. That little rbyme about the snakes is good to know. I was at the aquarium this week, and they have a milk snake (or was it a coral snake?) exibit. There's a little sign to tell you how to tell them apart. I stared at it for a while, trying to committ it to memory (for, you know, all those hundreds of times I'm going to have to tell them apart), but I alredy have forgotten. Now I'll never forget it! Hopefully.

    They also had a turantula there. It does spin a web. But unlike most webs that look like lace, this one looks like cotton cloth. It's very dense and stiff and white, almost like a handkerchief. VERY creepy.

  7. Fire ants have moved as far north as Norfolk, VA, now. They are very adaptable, plus global warming doesn't hurt their chances, either. I've already told my husband that when they show up here, I'm moving north. See you in Canada!

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