‘I’ve learned to see beauty instead of a beast’: the house pests we’ve grown to love

‘I’ve learned to see beauty instead of a beast’: the house pests we’ve grown to love

‘I’ve learned to see beauty instead of a beast’: the house pests we’ve grown to love

A close-up of a house centipede.

Ants are clever, moths are fun to stroke and spiders can protect you from even worse horrors … readers on the vermin that won their hearts

Last modified on Fri 8 Oct 2021 08.08 EDT

‘When I see a centipede, I thank it for being a good housemate’

For a good while I have been indulgent of the spiders and wasps that live outside my home, but my biggest about-face has been with house centipedes, which can be horrifying to look at for many people, given their plethora of whiskery legs. However, they are also the tigers of the insect world, effective predators of many household pest species. I’m a bibliophile living in a century-old building, so silverfish are always a danger. Having a house centipede in residence is the surest, and cleanest, way of suppressing a silverfish plague. So when I see one making its nocturnal perambulation across the wall, I give it a smile and thank it for being such a good housemate. Howard Kistler, technical manager and software developer, Virginia

‘Ants aren’t dirty, they’re intelligent’

Ants form an orderly queue to get to two large crumbs on a kitchen worktop

I’ve learned to love the ants that were taking over my kitchen counters. They seemed to be coming in because of my cats’ food, and I spent hours carefully removing them. I did some research and discovered they aren’t “dirty”, as I had assumed, and in fact they are very intelligent. I learned about how they all work together and found out that they leave a scent trail to find their way back to any food. This was helpful as I was able to wipe the counter with vinegar to deter them from returning. I also placed a paper plate with some honey on the floor by the door as a treat. Now, I highly recommend ants as friendly housemates – they’re so fun to watch. Cheryl Fitzpatrick, teacher, Connecticut

‘I appreciate black widows’ help in controlling scorpions’

Raphael Rouquier's photo of a black widow spider attacking a scorpion

Black widow spiders are endemic to southern California and widespread in Los Angeles, and although they are among the few venomous spiders in the US, they bite and deliver poison very rarely. They have also been vilified because, on occasion, the female eats the male after mating. Having learned to live with them in the Hollywood Hills, I now appreciate their help in controlling scorpions. Black widows stay outdoors, but scorpions enter houses if given the opportunity. I took this photo recently – the scorpion is caught in the spider’s web and was no match for the black widow. Raphael Rouquier, university professor, Los Angeles

‘I am learning not to be quite so terrified’

A bright yellow crab spider blends in with the poached egg flower it lurks within

I am mortally afraid of spiders and dread the autumn when large ones wander around the house, but I am learning to be less afraid since discovering that the small, fat-bodied green or yellow spiders in my garden are actually crab spiders, which hunt bees by grabbing them in their front legs. The crab spiders hide in flowers and can change colour to match the petals – it can take a few days but I once saw one change from yellow to green when the flowers fell from my poached egg plant. I found another on the clematis that had achieved a greenish mauve. After that, I watched and photographed other small spiders in the garden until I learned quite a few of their names and habits. Now, the huge female spiders that live in my shed do not hold so many fears for me, and I am learning not to be quite so terrified of the males that run across my lounge floor looking for love on autumn nights. I’ve learned to see beauty instead of a beast – but I still wish they wouldn’t scuttle quite so fast. Jane Devlin, Gloucestershire

‘I don’t mind rats now – they are part of countryside living’

I lived in an old bungalow, the loft of which became home to a rat. Having grown up in London with “proper” rats, my imagination went wild – I hated rats. We sealed up access to the house from the roof, but it was still getting into the kitchen cabinets. I started to wait up at night, waiting for the familiar “plop” as it dropped into the cabinet. With a barbecue skewer in my hand (what I thought I was going to do with it I don’t know), I crept up to the cupboard and decided to confront my fear. I opened the door to see a rat tail disappear back up into the ceiling. It was then I realised this was a brown field rat, not much bigger than a mouse, and not the dog-sized black sewer rats of my childhood. After that, I didn’t mind the sound of it, and eventually it just disappeared. I don’t mind rats now; they are part of countryside living. Ceri Rushent, teacher, Berkshire

‘Seeing creepy-crawlies through my son’s eyes changed my perspective’

A butterfly on a woman's finger

As a child, I was terrified of anything with more than four legs. One of my earliest memories is of being stung by a bee and spending a tearful half-hour with my mother trying to prise its stinger out of my foot. Over the years I managed to control my reactions, but I never liked creepy-crawlies. That was until my son Asher was born. As soon as he could walk, he would chase butterflies and stroke beetles. As he grew, his interest blossomed. We caught caterpillars and watched them transform into butterflies. I stroked a moth for the first time and marvelled at its soft, fuzzy coat. We even went on a beekeeping course. Seeing them through his eyes has really changed my perspective and I have learned to love our tiny friends. I have drawn the line at buying him a tarantula, though. Hannah Winkler, Devon

‘Writing a book about a spider helped me to stop being so scared of them’

A close-up of a jumping spider on a leaf

I’ve been scared of spiders my whole life, so why I decided to write a children’s novel about a brave, but slightly neurotic, false widow remains a mystery. I did much of my research from behind a cushion and learned never to Google “scared of spiders” again. But as I learned more, I realised that spiders are incredible creatures – vital, funny, cute, colourful, resilient, useful – and they are everywhere, like it or not. Since publication, I’ve discovered that my books have helped readers overcome their own fears of our eight-legged friends, too. Emma Read, author, Bath

‘Drawing moths has completely alleviated my fear’

Kate Hill-Lines' drawings of moths

I have always been scared of moths and would have to leave the room if one was near. I could, however, appreciate how beautiful they are. So, despite my fear, I decided to draw a study of them. I chose a few different species that we have in the UK and found that researching them and then drawing them completely alleviated my fear. I can now be around them without any worries whatsoever. Kate Hill-Lines, artist, Bedfordshire

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