Small Visitors

In addition to the funamushi William found this weekend, we have come across a few other creatures in the past month. Two of them I never, ever hope to have a run in with again.

In the beginning of May we spent a few days camping on Sensuijima, an island just off the coast of Fukuyama. During the day, we noticed a couple of tanuki hanging around the outdoor eating area begging for food. They looked incredibly diseased, scabby, and were even missing their tails. They were awake during the day, which is strange for tanuki, abnormally comfortable around humans, and seemed to be in pain. I thought it was incredibly cruel that the restaurant owners had not decided to take responsibility for these creatures and put them out of their misery.

As soon as night fell though, a whole army of healthy, bushy tailed tanuki emerged from the forest. Every where you shone your flashlight was a little raccoon dog that would stand stunned for a moment before scampering off into the trees.

About two weeks ago, I was sitting in the dark feeding the baby at about 4am. Suddenly I felt something crawl onto my back from the couch and inside my shirt. I was really groggy and so the first thought through my head was, "yuck! a cockroach just crawled into my shirt". Our house is pretty old, with lots of cracks and holes to the outside, so it wasn't too far fetched to think that a cockroach could find its way inside the house and down my shirt. I proceeded to smack at the "cockroach" as it tried to make its way from my back to my sleeve. At the time, crushing it against my shoulder under my shirt to kill it seemed like a good idea until my skin started burning. I quickly stripped off my shirt and flung it on the floor. The last thing I wanted to do at that moment was go through my shirt and search for whatever bug just bit me, so I went to bed and had a fitful sleep until the sun came up. By that time, my stomach felt kind of queasy and my arm and back felt very sensitive and painful.

Just in case you were wondering, this is what nightmares
are made of.
I searched through my shirt and didn't find the bug (it must have run back and hid in whatever hole it came from) but I found a number of curved orangey red legs that could only have come from a mukade, or giant centipede. These insects are huge, fast, and relatively poisonous. For an adult it is not such a big deal to be bitten, but the toxin can be pretty dangerous for young children. I am so happy that it was me and not Rosie or the boys that came across the centipede!

This is what my arm looked like a few hours later.
The actual bite is on the bottom near my armpit and all
 the little red dots are where its legs scratched me.
The bite itself didn't look too terrible, just red dots and scratches from where its legs scrabbled against my skin. It didn't actually hurt too badly when it bit me; kind of like a cinder landing on your skin for a few seconds. The real pain started about half an hour later radiating out from the bite down my back and arm. I was actually surprised at how little and innocuous the bite looked considering how much my muscles and joints ached. The aching feeling in my back and arm lasted about a day or two and I felt a bit dizzy and queasy for about 10 hours or so. Really, the worst part of it all was how itchy and puffy my skin became. Even the spots where its legs touched me got red and itchy and it took all I had not to touch for about two weeks until the swelling went down.

We also had our first encounter with a suzumebachi, or asian giant hornet. It came buzzing into the yard and died a few minutes later when Dustin smacked it with a broom. Like the giant centipedes, these are far larger than any hornet has a right to be and can be pretty dangerous if you are stung multiple times or if they sting a child. Once again, I counted my blessings that none of the children were around.

This is definitely not the one that flew into our garden. I wouldn't have been crazy enough
to let it walk around on my palm.
Just in case you think our house attracts only the worst sorts, we do have this lovely fellow who pops his head out from time to time. There are actually a lot of skinks that come and go in our garden, but this individual is easier to spot with his slightly shortened tail. He lives a large lavender bush at the front of the house and comes out to drink water droplets from the leaves and keep an eye on me whenever I am watering. Not all of our creature visits are bad!


Carol said...

Aren't the tanuki those revered characters with the straw hats? Give me those over those insects! I makes me think that, in Japan, Godzilla is a documentary, not a horror film!

Laura said...

It makes Mothra pretty believable too! I can't believe it took me nearly 3 years to see a tanuki (Yes, they are the ones they make into chubby, jolly statues with the straw hats). It just proves I have not done enough camping, hiking, and outdoorsy stuff!