Brushes With Nature. Horrible, Horrible Nature.

By Kate Romero

You’d think I would be tired of writing about critters, but you would be wrong.  If you are a recent arrival to Brasilia, you may be worried that it is the End of Times, what with the biblical plague of insects making their way into our homes with the onset of the rainy season.  Yesterday I woke up to my dining table covered in insect wings.  Where were the bodies?  How did they fly away with no wings? Not to mention the thirty or so millipedes curled up like tiny cinnamon rolls of grodiness throughout my house.  And it’s not like I don’t clean the floors (and I’m sure you know that when I say “I”, I don’t really mean I clean the floors myself.  I’m far too busy providing the essential service of helping you guys sell your patio tables and whatnot to clean my own floors).  The bugs cover the floors overnight.  My dog does his best to help, but he really only eats the heads, and then I’m left with messy carcasses.  I tried to get my kids to at least clean up the millipedes, but they flatly refused, at least until I said, “Well, that’s fine.  I just hope they don’t slither into your ears while you are sleeping.”  They did get pretty good at cleaning up the ones that were still alive after that.

Now, some creatures I actually like.  Geckos, for instance.  They are adorable in a ‘lizardy’ way, and they eat bugs I don’t like, so I leave them alone. However, no one in my family had ever seen a gecko before we moved here, so when one dropped onto my daughter’s shoulder while taking her first shower in the new house, you could say she was unimpressed. I also think the monkeys are cute, in a they’re-so-ugly-they’re-cute kind of way.

About two months after we first arrived in Brasilia, I thought there was some kind of electrical overload/alien invasion going on outside our house. Turns out it was just the screaming cicadas.  My ten year-old daughters like to collect cicadas’ exoskeletons, which can be found clinging to trees,  and hook them onto their clothes like hideous jewelry.  The girls have also been known to scotch-tape paper outfits they’ve designed  to the many dead unicorn beetles they find around the house and make little gruesome/awesome dioramas.  “Project Bugway”, if you will.


Suicidal lizard number one.

I fished two lizards out of our pool this week.  I’m pretty sure they committed suicide because they couldn’t take the noise from the cicadas.  I’ve heard tales of giant snakes in people’s pools in our neighborhood, as well as creatures of the four-legged variety who drowned themselves one way or another.  

At our previous house, we had a Very Bad Experience.  A rat came out of the toilet.  Yes, this is a thing.  It happened to us once in Seattle.  Our brave and mighty dog trapped this particular Brazilian rat under the bathroom sink.  While I was standing on the sofa in the living room, screaming my head off alongside my daughter (who was incidentally wearing her muddy shoes on my white slipcovers), my teenager was sprawled on the ground shooting arrows under the counter at the rat while my other daughter stood by passing him fresh arrows, and my husband was on the phone, calling whoever one calls in a situation like that.  Hint: it’s not GSO or FAC (you’re welcome, Elias and John!).  Gardeners are good at animal removal if they are available, but they never seem to be available when I need them.  Anyway, as luck (?) would have it, my teenager maimed the rat just as the school bus pulled up, and our brave and mighty dog finished the job after the rat stumbled out from under the counter.  Okay, so I guess you could call me and I can send my dog over if this happens to you. The whole episode was hideous.

And how about spiders? They’re everywhere. I don’t mind them too much, but I don’t like it when they are furry and as big as my hand.   The Dolson family had this little fella come visit their house:



Fortunately, the Dolson’s have a teenaged son in possession of a paintball gun.

My friend Nancy had an opossum LIVING INSIDE HER SOFA.





If I turned my couch over and saw that looking at me, I would drop dead.


They had to call in professionals to get rid of it.

We had an opossum fall to it’s death out of our tree last spring, and about six possum babies were attached to it.  That was not awesome. Opossums like to take up residence in attics, so if you hear some scratching noises in your ceiling, I wish you all the best.

My friend Katie, who has lived in Brasilia for over five years, wins for most creatures found at her house.  My personal favorite story is when her gardener Amarildo found an armadillo.  Amarildo found an armadillo.  Amarildo.  Armadillo. I could say that all day.

Amarildo’s Armadillo

critter5 critter2

The list of critters Katie’s family has found is impressive:

“3 Armadillos, 3 bats, 3 random snakes, large frogs, opossum in the attic, stupid leaf cutter ants that actually ate an entire 10-foot shrub, 2 scorpions, 1 big [expletive] rat, and cute little geckos that my maid likes to kill like they are scorpions.”*  

*Not included on this list:  One wine-thieving Newsletter Editor.


This boa constrictor was not found on the Torrence property, but on the road. However, I’ve heard tales of people finding them in their pools, so look before you leap, my friends. MWAAHAAAHAAAAAA…..


“Still Life With Bat”


My, what horrible red eyes you have.


I wasn’t brave enough to put a quarter next to this guy for size comparison, but just imagine that he’s bigger than a breadbox. I’m pretty sure I’m remembering his size correctly.

I’m always amazed when people have their wits about them enough to go find a camera and take a picture when critters invade their homes and yards.  I’m far to busy dying and then being dead to do that, but I did take a picture of this roach that crawled out of our bathtub drain one morning.

Normally, at the end of a column, I like to give you helpful tips and advice.  But in this case, I got nothin’ for you guys on how to avoid opossums moving in to your house or keeping beetles outside.  Just know that we are living in a place where this kind of stuff is going to happen. And hope that when it happens to you, it’s your gardener’s day to be there.  If not, lock yourself in your Safe Room and call 911.  That won’t help, but I saw it on a movie once, only the opossums were kidnappers.  See?  I guess I did have a helpful tip after all.  You’re welcome!

For professional animal removal assistance, you can contact Policia Militar Ambiental.  They will come to your home (dressed in camouflage outfits, even!) on a first-come, first-served basis to remove wild animals and place them back into the wild.  This is a free service, but even if it weren’t, now that my husband is off playing in a sandbox for a year, I would pay dearly to have a group of fit Brazilian guys storm into my house in their camos and remove a wild animal for me. Hmmmm. Anyone want to loan me an opossum?


2 responses to “Brushes With Nature. Horrible, Horrible Nature.

  1. Richard Curtin

    A great article, Whitehead.

  2. Very, very funny — loved it!

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