In our small corner of enchantment, we are accustomed to occasional swells and troughs in the local population of varmints. An English-language newspaper recently mentioned the plague of flies which had swarmed out of nowhere, covering the outside in unbelievable numbers. Yet, by the time the report came out, the mass of flies had gone, returning to the usual status quo, which is a nuisance rather than a serious bother. Where did they all go to? Unlike the Chinese, who were reputedly told to kill a hundred a day, no doubt on pain of having their own wings pulled off, we manage to avoid keeping tally, relying on an aerosol spray to do the job.
I once bought a trap for flies, a plastic pack crowned with a hook and a cardboard landing area and with a small lump of damp rhinoceros shit secreted in the bowels of the package. A sure-fly success with the moscas. Within days I had about a kilo of dead and rotting flies in my swollen bag, hanging in the arbour. I had to bury the whole stinking mess at the bottom of the garden. A few grasshoppers came along to mourn.
One summer we have a plague of mosquitoes; another time – as this year – there don’t seem to be any. We may have locusts, a plague of them stripped Mojácar in 1906 causing a catastrophic famine here, or it may be a simple swelling in the population of fleas, or scorpions, or mice. This comes about either because the particular thing which eats them happens to be in a decline that year, or because the particular thing which the plague eats, happens to be in abundance. Nature will eventually balance things out, saving the environmentalists or the household bottle of insecticide the trouble. Our current problem with the palm tree beetle is that, because it comes from foreign parts, there is no local creature that likes to snack on it. Give it time.
At the moment, in our neighbourhood, we are troubled by ants. They are those little ones which like sweet things and, as we found out yesterday, they have a particular regard for Sugar Puffs. A long line of them crossed the floor of the kitchen, headed for the larder. Meanwhile, a rather more obvious line of pieces of cereal was jauntily marching along the other way, out the door and down a hole on the terrace.
We are also currently blessed with woodlice: also apparently known as ‘roly polies’. The Spanish ones are nevertheless rarely able to roll into a ball, and prefer to lie on their backs with all of their legs waving futilely in the air as they wait for someone, unknowingly, to pass by and grant them release from this vale of tears. ‘Crunch, crunch yuck!’ as one of the kids said with disgust last time we had the problem with this particularly pointless pest, around twenty-five years ago.
But plagues are always a short-term problem, controlled by the natural rhythm of the seasons. With a little patience on our part, we know that even the tourists will soon be gone and we will once again be able to enjoy our evenings without being obliged to wear some repellent.