Multispecies housing

Wildlife is moving in with us. Maybe it's a slow reclamation process of the 45 square metres of habitat that our cabin has displaced.

Wildlife is moving in with us. Maybe it’s a slow reclamation process of the 45 square metres of habitat that our cabin has displaced. The newest tenants are a pair of violet-green swallows who have taken up residence right under the ridgepole, in the roof insulation – a rather crowded accommodation that’s also popular with mice, ants, wasps and assorted other members of the insect kingdom.

It used to be relaxing to sit on the couch and stare out at the mountains, letting my thoughts unravel and listen to the wind in the trees. Now it’s like an airport. A steady string of workers from the little ant colony that has established itself in the flowerpot of winter savoury is busy carting off the mosquito and black fly carcasses that pepper the window sills, pulling and jerking like travellers with unco-operative luggage carts. I ponder the self-cleaning advantages of an animal-infested household: whatever the dogs don’t mop up, the ants take away. A real benefit when you can’t vacuum.

Outside, the swallows dive past the windows at breakneck speed until one of them lands on the HF radio’s antenna wire above the hummingbird feeder. The runway manager, our resident hummingbird, instantly abandons doing figure eights in the grass around an unimpressed sparrow and darts over to the swallow, issuing his machine gun commands to vacate the wire immediately. He does his job well and within seconds, the airspace is cleared.

My head whiplashes around as the swallow flits by, then jerks back again at a loud buzzing sound coming from the woodstove. Aha: that’s where the wasps get in. Or at least the dusty grey ones. An ash-covered wasp climbs nimbly out of the air intake and drones past my towards the exposed rafters. A cunning move, up there I can’t reach it. Nevertheless, I pick up my wasp control equipment, a cup and a postcard. This is my chance to impress Sam with feats of daring and courage – he’s slightly scared of wasps, I’m not.

I jam some toilet paper into the stove’s air intake and begin my pursuit of the dusty intruder. Finally, it flies to the window and begins it’s dance against the pane. I put the cup over it and slide the postcard in between the window and cup, careful not rip any legs off the wasp. The humming vibrates in my fingers as I walk towards the door.

“Here, I’ll open it for you,” Sam says, looking nervously at the cup in my hands. I stretch my arms out the door and shake the wasp back out into freedom, unsure how long it will be before it or one of its cousins will find their way back in. I average five wasp catch-and-release missions a day now.

There’s not much time for laziness, though. Two or three large houseflies (how can there be houseflies out in the bush?) and a flock of mosquitoes have come in through the door. Sam and I fan out with our bug swatters to electrocute these latest arrivals. We can’t let them all get off scot-free. The ants have to eat, too.

One fly explodes on Sam’s racket like fireworks. He shakes the fly off and stomps on it to end its brief foray into human habitat. “Dani thinks this is mean,” I comment. “I emailed her about how effective these things are and she said that’s terrible.”

Sam frowns, having missed the second fly. “Yeah, well. Whenever we put a foot outside the door, we’re fair game for all the bugs. In here, it’s the other way around. Anyway…,” he lunges, another pop, sparks fly and then there’s the summer smell of grilled fly, “the outhouse is a real fly hatchery. Tell her that.”

I wrinkle my nose. It’s true, everyday the Styrofoam seat is sprinkled with a fresh brown tattoo of fly footprints. I zap what I hope is the last of this batch of the mosquitoes and put my bug racket away. Peace. We sink back onto the couch.

The soft chirping of swallows filters down to us from underneath the roof, punctuated by the rapid pitter-patter of mouse feet. Over by the window, an ant is wrestling with a desiccated mosquito corpse while the low drone of another wasp is coming out of the bowels of the woodstove. I’m just about ready for winter again.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

Most Read