Mindy tackles bugs and creepy crawlies at Hammond Towers
We will use your email address only for sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights.
Old houses are supposed to make strange noises. It goes with the territory and can be mightily unnerving for anyone accustomed to living in a modern building. Our house is ancient, so whenever we have overnight visitors in winter we’re careful to explain that the loud ticking noise they may hear will be the pipes expanding and that sometimes an old beam might decide to creak, but it’s really nothing to worry about.
During the summer the heating is off, so the house is peaceful (apart from the cheeping of baby birds nesting in the eaves). But one evening this week Izzy alerted me to a new and very alarming noise coming from one of the beams in her bedroom.
“It sounds like crackling,” she told me. I thought she must be exaggerating or there’d be a simple explanation, so I walked over to investigate. I was 10 inches away when my eyes opened wide. “Blimey. That’s loud.”
Izzy looked over nervously, “Try putting your ear to it. It’s awful.” I did. It sounded like something (or many somethings) were chomping away inside the old oak beam. She had a slightly terrified expression on her face. “I have to sleep in here with that… what is it?”
I inspected the beam. “I’m not sure. But whatever it is it isn’t trying to get in here. Don’t worry, I’ll call pest control in the morning.”
I consulted the internet and read about all kinds of nasty beetle-like creatures that bore into wood – the scariest was the deathwatch beetle – it can take them over 10 years to reach adult size. Their noise was described as ticking. We might’ve called our noise crackling, but is one man’s tick another man’s crackle?
I was on the phone to Mark, our Welsh pest control pal, first thing next morning. “It’s really quite loud,” I told him. “Whatever is in there it sounds like they’re eating rice crispies.” He was with us that afternoon. He put his ear to the beam and calmly asked if he could climb on to Izzy’s bedroom windowsill. Was it so bad he was planning to hurl himself out?
We cleared the sill of her mirror and array of make-up before Mark lifted the sash and slid the top half of his body out. “Ah, there you are see… just as I thought. Wasps. They’re scraping at the wood to make a nest. Here you are, have a look, you can see where they’re going in.” Mark made way for me to peer out. There were lots of them, squeezing in under a tile. “Thank the Lord. I thought we had some horrible wood-boring beetle and the house was about to crumble.”
“Ah… the Google monster, it’s a dangerous thing,” he joked. Mark treated our unwelcome visitors. By bedtime the beam was silent and Izzy enjoyed a peaceful slumber.
But that wasn’t our only issue. The wisteria outside my bedroom window is a vigorous plant and because its foliage is unusually dense it houses many nesting birds. It’s lovely to hear their cheeping babies, but that means the leafy kindergarten can’t be cut until all the nests are empty. Over the years I’ve accepted my view will be obscured for a month or two in summer as the wisteria creeps towards the roof. Because the house is made of old stone and stays relatively cool I don’t need to open the windows for ventilation, so I don’t disturb any nesting activities.
However, we’ve had especially warm weather this year and I cracked open one of the sash windows just a little before Richard and I went away for a few days. When I came home, I walked into the bedroom to discover the wisteria had moved indoors. Tendrils had pushed through and were heading towards the ceiling. As I set about cutting off the blighters – like a scene from The Day Of The Triffids – I spotted a caterpillar creeping across my bedroom wall. I’ve always liked caterpillars and was about to restore him to his natural habitat when I stopped. This was no normal caterpillar.
It was skinny and black with yellow and white spots and long spiny hairs.
I captured it in a glass. It looked suspiciously like a brown-tail moth caterpillar. But I took a photo and enlarged it on my phone. He had teeny tufts on his back and an ominous-looking spur. He was a yellow tufted caterpillar, which turns into a vapourer moth. Phew! Just a moth then. But had I touched it I could’ve got a nasty rash – the hairs can cause irritation. No sooner had I captured the first, than I saw a second that fell off the wall and disappeared.
I’ve sealed the windows, hoovered and shut the room off from dogs and cats, but he’s in there somewhere, either starving to death or preparing to metamorphose into a moth.
Honestly, wasps make free with our building materials, birds sublet to caterpillars. What next? Will the hens be taking in rabbit lodgers?
Source: Read Full Article