Working out the Bugs

The villa that we’re renting is a mixed bag. Positive for the most part, we love the surrounding neighborhood, precise location, outdoor shower, and open floor plan. Our roof is uniquely tall and pitched, with an open gap that lets in breezes and varied sounds from the jungle outside. One long wall is made up of glass doors that can slide open to expose a long wooden deck, a deep, private yard with surrounding trees, 2 ponds with fish, and arboretum-worthy flowers and plants. 

The last hour of daylight is my favorite time of day. Sitting on the deck, watching the clouds and light do amazing things (when the clouds are gone, 3 volcanoes loom beautifully 15 miles away). Our yard has been adopted by several roosters and hens, and chicks that are growing fast. Exotic birds come and go. Grey herons loiter near the ponds, and pair off to create an incredible sound ritual. Stunning blue birds with big red beaks appear now and then. Periodically, a noisy flock of ducks waddles through on their way from one rice field to another. And arrows of large white herons gracefully pass overhead on their nightly return to the tree tops of Petulu.

The downside? The house wasn’t designed or built tremendously well. Doors and windows don’t close properly; the faucets are odd; and we were warned that the outdoor shower drainage system was prone to back up. And, the home is on the market to be sold, and so we were the first human tenants to live here in a while. Beginning on our first night, we found a lot of critters right at home in every nook and cranny: bookshelves: curtains: cupboards: dishrack: pillows; furniture: sheets; etc. That was a night of squeals! Huntsman spiders -as just one example- are huge, and scary looking, and scurry very fast. Trying to catch and put them outside led to many laughable moments of tension -and still can. 

Geckos were another critter to adjust to, two in particular. Large guys, who sleep upside down in the same spot every night, the apex of our pitched ceiling. Every morning, we awaken to their poop, dropped onto the exact same spot from high above, in the middle of the house. A few days after we moved in we were sitting on the couch, and heard a thud from a few feet away. One of the geckos had fallen all the way down (roughly 35 feet) onto the hard cement floor. His eyes were closed, and he lay motionless. Saddened and a bit shocked, we spent many minutes looking at him, thinking about the best way to dispose of his body. Then suddenly he moved a claw a little, then opened one eye a bit. Over the next hour, we watched in amazement as he silently and slowly made his way up the walls and beams and all the way back to his usual spot. That “drop spot” took on a new dimension from then on. (Months earlier, in another house, I had a large gecko fall smack onto my chest from high above as I lay studying. I do not want a repeat of that experience).

None of these things were that problematic however, and we could adjust. But, shortly after we returned from Myanmar, the late November rainy season began. We love the rain here. It often comes down hard, and for extended periods of time. The noise it makes falling onto our roof, combined with the frequent thunder and lightning is exciting. But unbeknownst to us, November rains also usher in a wave of annual critter activity we were not prepared for.

One night, we saw for the first time, several moths flying around a light bulb dangling from a beam. Within a minute or 2 there were many more, and then within a minute, many more -now flying everywhere. Before long, strangely, their wings began appearing on the floor, and then suddenly, there were ants -lots of them- everywhere. For an hour, we sweated and swiped and swung our brooms and whisked little legs and wings out the door or down the toilet, and took turns crying OMG, look!

The next night it happened again, even worse -and included new types of flyers and crawlers: fat-bodied moths and termite-like things. And the night after that again -even worse. Hundreds of insects flew everywhere, or fluttered around on the ground in a sea of wings. And ants of different sizes -including large ones- scurried about everywhere. We’d wipe an area free with our broom, and move onto another area, yet within a minute see that first area once again filled with insects. Where were they coming from? Each night, we’d spend at least an hour -sometimes 2, taking care of the problem, and sweeping up every last critter. But come morning, there’d be wings scattered everywhere somehow -and ants taking them away. We inquired about this phenomenon to our neighbors and our local Ubud Facebook group, and was told that it’s an annual event that will last 3-4 days.

A month later, it was still happening. And there were some doozy nights, especially one in particular. It was pouring hard, and the water level in the outdoor shower was nearing the breach stage, threatening to flood into the house. I chose that moment to discover a flying ants nest, hidden under the wooden kitchen counter, and sprayed it with the organic insecticide we’d been sold. OMG. Hundreds -thousands?- of large flying ants began pouring out of a little crack and onto the shelf below, and we began to sweep bucket loads into the toilet -a gross and creepy sight that we’d now become accustomed to.

A short time later, the rain water -and a lot of it- began flooding across the floor. It was a downpour outside, a violent thunderstorm. While I scooped up water from inside, Jennifer did what she could outside, and eventually lifted the drain grill to find a plastic plug that was placed there before we moved in, and which allowed just a little water to go down the drain! Doh! Problem solved.

Now January, we still often have moths and termite-like bugs and ants plague us on occasion (and frogs, amazing dragonflies, huge preying mantis, and grass hoppers), but the worst seems to be over. We have surmised that this house was ill-advisably built on a soggy lot, and as such has some problems that our neighbors do not have.

The newest problem that we’ve needed to deal with is related to the soggy lot: mold. Its incredible how fast it can grow on clothes and items that are not properly protected. Most villas here have a wall-pipe ventilation system that addresses the issue, or AC, but not ours. However, we do have a small contained room in back, that -with the addition of a humidifier- has become a sealed dry room, where we can safely keep things from becoming moldy.


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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. karen silva
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 16:15:51

    Love reading your chronicles of your trip your description definitely comes across working out the bugs! Xoxo


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