Posted by: scribe9 | February 9, 2010

Bugged about screens

This morning I escorted a praying mantis outside. Silly me, I didn’t look closely enough at it to determine whether it’s the native or the African variety.

I spend a fair amount of time removing insects from my house, dead or alive. That wasn’t the first praying mantis I’d expelled. I’ve also brushed out ladybugs and spiders. So far no stick bugs have come in, but a 6-incher was lurking around our front door for a few days. (There are 20 native species of stick bug. I have no intention of learning to distinguish among them.) A green chafer died in the corner of the living room recently.

I occasionally am embarrassed by small black ants, silent and speedy critics of my housekeeping. One morning I saw a dark, moving spot on the dining room floor. It was ants dealing with the corpse of a lacewing.

Every once in a while a mosquito wanders in—fewer than one might think. The most frequent invaders are the moths. On warm, humid evenings we open the windows so we can breathe, turn on the lights to see what we’re doing, and in they come. Last night I batted several away while drafting emails, and I find their carcasses on every floor and windowsill.

What about the screens, you ask? There are none. New Zealanders apparently don’t believe in them. They like casement windows, and lots of them. Our house has at least two, usually four, movable windows in each room—about two feet wide and four feet tall—and they swing out along the long side. Great for ventilation, and great for letting in bugs. (The neighbor’s cat tried to come in once, too.) I have a friend who rented a brand-new house with a big sliding window over the sink—and no screen. I have another friend from Germany who says that if she ever builds a house here, she’ll import German casement windows that swing in and have screens. I have seen about three screen doors in all the months I’ve been here.

Screenlessness seems to be part of the Kiwi ethos (which is why they haven’t fully embraced dual-pane windows, central heating, or insulation): that’s the way we do it; it’s not that big a bother; don’t waste time doing anything about it.

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