Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'm his new BFF in the whole wide world.

Meet my new best friend.
Isn't he just the cuuuutest thing ever? Well, the reason he's clinging so tightly to his new friend's finger is decidedly NOT cute, not at all.

Our story begins with the whitefly invasion I briefly posted about a couple of weeks ago. At least I think they were whiteflies. Maybe they were moths; perhaps they were gnats. Truth is, I really don't really know for certain, because the little jerks refused to sit for portraits. All I know is, they were whitish in color, they could fly, and they were EVERYWHERE.

Admittedly, I freaked a bit. You see, I had just planted half of the fall vegetable garden (with one hand in a cast, mind you) and I was certain these droves of evil flying creatures were out searching for a cheap brunch buffet. Since pesticides are out of the question in my garden, I quickly researched eco-friendly solutions to flying insect infestations, and decided to go with sticky fly traps.

And the traps worked swimmingly, on both flying and crawling insects. Oh, but I was pleased as Punch with the success of my sustainable garden whitefly solution, smugly oblivious as to whether I was trapping good guys or bad guys. Quite pleased, indeed. That's the way to do it!

Until this morning, that is. Heeding the old adage that a gardener's shadow is the best form of pest control, I started my day as I usually do, by surveying the back 40 (feet, that is; not acres).

After watering the bed where I planted the root vegetable seeds this past weekend, I checked out the pole bean and cucumber bed, and that's where I found the tiny baby anole, hopelessly glued down to a sticky whitefly trap, from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail. Sob! Anoles are good guys, eating flying insects like mosquitoes and, yes, whiteflies. Poor little thing was probably just looking for lunch. At first, I thought he might, not alive...I touched him, gently, and he opened his eyes and began to pant. He's alive, yay! and yikes! I needed to act quickly.

I ran inside the house, fly trap in hand. How to get him off without hurting him? Scraping him off with any sort of garden or kitchen implement would surely cause severe injury. Aaugh! I tried rinsing anole+flypaper in lukewarm water, but dang that glue is water-resistant, precisely as advertised. Solvents were out - even vinegar could be too caustic for a baby anole to endure. Something inert, something with a neutral pH, something slippery...maybe oil would loosen the glue?

Twenty minutes and a Q-Tip drenched in canola oil later, baby anole was free, with every scale, tail tip and toe intact. Free, but weak from struggling to get loose for who knows how long. Trembling with fatigue and breathing heavily, he clung to my finger, never suspecting who put the traps up in the first place! Waa! What have I done? Would he be OK?

I took him outside and put him in the sunniest spot I could find, on a patch of spiderwort, and breathed a sigh of relief as I watched him crawl across the leaves, moving all his wittle feeties, toes, arms and legs with no problems. Whew. As soon as he spied the neutral-colored ceramic pot nearby, he started turning brown.

He attempted to scale a spiderwort stem to get to the pot,

and promptly slid off, landing softly on a sprig of horseherb. Oopsie. I guess I didn't do such a good job of rinsing the canola oil off.
After a bit of a rest, he took off, in search of a (hopefully safer) meal, and I took off to collect and dispose of every stupid whitefly trap in the garden.

And the moral of this story is, eco-friendly pest controls are not inherently harmless, d'oh. Sticky traps can traps lizards, butterflies, ladybugs and other garden good guys. Sigh. Instead of panicking and posting whitefly traps all about, perhaps I should have been more patient and waited for their natural predators to move in. It's always so hard to know when to act and when to wait. I feared waiting could result in a disastrous infestation. Unfortunately, decisions made from a position of fear are typically poor ones. Lesson learned.


  1. We have been taught to react quickly to bug infestations so do not beat on yourself too much. It is so hard to tell people to just pick the buggers off and wait - Mother Nature will provide on her own schedule. Your BFF is a cutie.

  2. Aw, heartbreaking. Poor little dude. I once found a baby lizard floating in the dog water dish, nearly drowned and too cold to move. I held him in my hand until he warmed up and then let him go and proceeded to fret about him all night.

  3. Awwwwww! I am so glad this story had a happy ending. Sometimes, we just don't realize all the ramifications of our actions. Those white-flies can be pesky, it's hard not to have a knee-jerk reaction to get rid of them.

  4. I thought you had some kind of exotic lizard. He was such a weird color, not like any anole I have ever seen. He must have been so stressed and they are such sweethearts. They always stick around to say hello. I hope he recovered from his ordeal. I know how you were feeling because I felt much the same way when all those bees came into my greenhouse and couldn't get out. I was franticly trying to catch them in a net and free them. Im glad your story had a happy ending.

  5. mr_subjunctive, I thought Nina was an anole, not a cougar! This fellow was the tiniest little baby boy.

    Jenny, he was EXTREMELY stressed (as any living creature would be under the circumstances). He seemed to know I was trying to help him but that didn't keep his little thorax from going in and out like fireplace bellows. I felt so terrible. He was very pale when I first found him but he turned all sorts of different colors as I worked to free him. I think the canola oil accentuated his colors in that first picture. I tried rinsing the oil off with some diluted Dawn dish soap (if it's safe enough to clean oil off seabirds, I figured it would be ok for him) but seeing as he wasn't in the mood for a bath and I felt I was stressing him out more, I eventually gave up.

  6. I'm so glad you worked so hard to save him. What a rough day for the poor little guy. He's such a beauty, though.

  7. Glad this wildlife episode had a happy ending.
    Good work.

  8. YEA!!! You're soooo sweet! Thank goodness he had a loving gardener to rescue him. He was soooooo cute.