This all started with a mosquito

How was it that I came to be nearly 900 km away from home, at a grocery store near Bangkok, looking carefully at the rat glue?

My view last week in a grocery store near Bangkok.

As I considered that question, I realized that it all started with a mosquito. I suppose there are mosquitos everywhere in Thailand. Where I live in southern Thailand, there are mosquitos year round. They aren’t a terrible pest at our house, but I suppose there are some mosquitos hiding in dark corners, somewhere, most days.

Ah, but those dark corners are just the thing for a crepuscular creature! And what if the crepuscular creature also feasts on mosquitos? Not rats—not yet. Geckos.

House geckos today in a crepuscular corner of the kitchen.

We have plenty of geckos in the house. Mostly house geckos, and also a couple (at least) of the larger and louder Tokay geckos. “Wonderful,” I think, every time I see a house gecko, or am startled by an unexpected loud “tok-kay!” from the big ones, “these geckos are keeping the mosquito population under control.”

One time we found a house gecko egg, put it carefully in a plastic bag, left it in a drawer until it hatched, and released the tiny baby lizard. I’ll admit to leaving a few crumbs out, or a few drops of water that I don’t bother to wipe up, knowing that the geckos may appreciate the treat.

I don’t know that my kind-heartedness is completely responsible for what happened next, but one morning I went downstairs to put on my shoes before going for a run, and as I turned on the light, a rat scurried up the wall and into a small hole in the ceiling. I don’t mind the geckos, but I recoiled from the rat.

The growing cat among the bougainvillea pots behind the house.

That was not a happy morning. Fortune, however, would soon smile on us, in the form of a small hungry kitten that appeared one morning below the steps at the back of the kitchen door. I was thinking that a kitten would soon be a cat, and having this animal around must be a good thing for keeping the rats under control. We are all familiar with the story of Dick Whittington. I’ve been to the Whittington Stone. So a few scraps of food began to make their way to the kitten. And the kitten started sneaking up the back stairs and into the kitchen every now and then, hiding under the sink and in various low places. I’m not a huge fan of cats in the kitchen, but if this is what is required to deal with the rats, then of course I will tolerate it, even welcome it.

There was to be another plot twist, however. The kitten turns out to be quite a hunter. We’ve found it waiting, stalking, and chasing after the geckos. To the best of my knowledge, the rapidly growing kitten hasn’t caught one yet, but this complicates what was already a precariously balanced biological control program for the mosquitos. If the cat doesn’t control the rats, then I may need to intervene.

And that’s how I came to be standing in a grocery store, staring at the rat glue, wondering if the award winning one was worth the extra 4 baht.

Micah Woods
Micah Woods

Scientist, author, consultant, and founder of the Asian Turfgrass Center

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