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Posted by Glenn on May 06, 2001 at 21:18:46:
The Mystery of the Missing Centipedes
and the Silent Crickets
Author: Glenn R. Bartley
All rights reserved by the author,
May 5, 2001
“Man look at em grab those crickets” I thought as my 2 Fire Belly Toads went at dinner. Boy they sure can put them away. As usual these guys were doing a number on whatever I decided to feed them. It was always fun to watch them eat. Then I decided to clean out some of the other tanks. I started on a snake tank and gave it a good scrub down. I dried it off and put in some pine shavings, added the hides and a water bowl with fresh water and then put the snakes back into it. I secured the lid and was about to start on another tank when something caught my attention as being not right. I wasn’t exactly sure what that something was, so I looked around the room slowly. “Oh drat” I said when I realized that I had left the frog tank open. One of the Fire Bellied Toads had escaped. I looked everywhere, moving just about everything in the room that was not tied down. I looked for about an hour but had no luck, the little bugger probably got underneath the furnace. “Shoot” I exclaimed (or something that began with sh…) it was gone. I looked for it everyday for the next few days, then only looked every now and again figuring it was a goner. I should have known better – well actually I did know better but I had absentmindedly left the cover off of the tank. Middle age is not much of an excuse but that is all I have as far as excuses go. Weeks went by and still only one frog/toad, the one that had not escaped. Weeks turned into months, and finally the months turned into over half a year. The little guy must not have lasted more than a week or two. The only good thing I could think of was that it never stunk up the basement; I guessed that the cat had gotten it or it had escaped to the great outdoors. Life went on but this was a loss that never should have happened. I have kept frogs, turtles, snakes, lizards, mice and so on for many years. I knew better, much better. But despite what you know, accidents do happen. I have lost frogs, snakes and even a musk turtle that climbed out of its aquarium. Luckily I almost always found them all – ALMOST always. This guy was one of the exceptions.
Since then I have been pretty careful. Despite my vigilance I recently lost an Eastern Milk Snake that either escaped or was eaten by a cage mate. I figure it had escaped as the other snake did not seem any fatter. That one too, has not shown up again, but I will give it some time before I give up on it. I was a bit concerned though when I lost the snake as I had begun to believe not only that I was forgetful, but that something else in my basement had gone amiss. I thought this because when I looked for the snake I did not see any creepy crawlers, then I realized I had not seen them over the winter either. These guys are usually there year round, they seem to love the cool temps in the basement. I am pretty sure they are centipedes and while I don’t want any crawling on me – I don’t mind them in the basement. There sure are not a lot of any other kinds of bugs down there except for some spiders in the warmer months. I guess they feed on other bugs and that is a good thing. I was wondering why they had seemed to die off and hoped that whatever it was would not affect the Milksnake. I was really concerned when I also realized that a few crickets that had escaped had not started to chirp up the old cricket chorus either. I have had plenty of crickets get away at feeding time for the frog(s) and the escapees always seemed to live long enough to grow to adult age at which time they sang songs of love cricket style. I had recently sprayed for carpenter ants and was hoping that the pesticide had not been applied too heavily.
As usual I told the kids and my wife to be on the lookout for the missing snake. It was one of my prized herps, and I was really hoping to breed her in about another 2 years. Still I was pretty much sure she too would wind up “amongst the missing” as my great-grandfather used to say. I guess I am really getting absentminded as I get older. I hope it does not progress much further or I’ll stop keeping my herps altogether. The snake had been gone for about two or three weeks when I heard my wife calling me to come and catch “it” in the basement. I went downstairs figuring she had spotted the Milksnake when she told me “not the snake, the frog”. Man oh man I thought - how could the other one have escaped too. As I headed down the cellar stairs, I told Linda (in my best guilt free voice) that there was no way I had left the tank open again. I figured it must have been one of the kids (namely Brendan my son). Linda surprised me when she replied “No, I think it’s the other one”. I ran down and scooped it up before it could hop away. I only had to see it for a second to realize that Linda had been right – it was the other one – the one that had escaped over 6 to 8 months before! The little guy was thinner than it had been when it escaped but by no means was undernourished. It looked pretty good for a frog/toad that had been living in the wilds of my boiler room (and the rest of the basement) for over 6, maybe even 8 months. I was pretty impressed with its tenacity. I asked Linda if she remembered what I had told her about the bug situation in our basement recently. She remembered that I had wondered what had happened to all of the creepy crawlers with thousands of legs that made the basement their stomping grounds. Of course she never mentioned to me that I had also remarked about those escaped crickets – this was simply because I never told her that they had escaped too, I mean I may be forgetful but I am not suicidal! Well the mystery of the missing centipedes and silent crickets was now pretty much solved, as I could see this escape artist and survivalist of a frog/toad had been getting regular meals. What I have yet to figure out is where this guy found a damp spot to keep his skin moist. Sure I know it could have been the toilet, but you would think that in 6-8 months time someone would have seen him taking a dive – and anyway it would have been hard to impossible for him to get in or out of the bowl. Oh well, so far my story has had a happy ending, I just hope I find the milk snake and that I don’t find a leak down in the basement!