[Tweeters] The Eek! Factor

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Thu Aug 28 08:46:32 PDT 2014

Typically not a squeamish or nervous naturalist, sometimes some creature will do something that really "pushes my button" and I have my little eek! moment. Just a temporary freak -out.
Hey maybe you've had an eek moment too, like "eek, a bear!", "eek, a bee!", or "eek, a spider!" I sure have. I even had an eek moment with a bird.
That was many moons ago, in the North Cascades, when I came across two full - grown Spotted Owl youngsters. It was really cool watching these two amusing creatures at close range as they ducked and bobbed their heads in and out and around in circular motions, keeping a real good eye on me.
After a lengthy time with the owls, it was time to go. I had walked about 50 ft when my sixth sense kicked in, and I turned around just in time to avoid one of the owls about to land, or whatever, on my head! My "Eek, owl talons!" button just had been pushed (until then I didn't even know I had one). I then watched the second bird glide silently over to it's sibling perched nearby above me. The curious owls both kept following me down the trail and I had to look backward a lot.
One creature that is really good at pushing my eek button is the big hairy European House Spider, as far as I know the largest spider around these parts. I grew up in a big drafty old house in West Seattle that was full of the things. It's not the size, or that they're spiders - spiders are cool - it's the uncanny speed at which they can run across a room and disappear, like maybe not just under your couch but ,you imagine, up your pant leg ... eek!- spiders moving at speeds beyond our control! If they would just slow down it would be OK.
Yes, it's best to be calm. Once, when I was around 12 years old or so, a friend and I were exploring "our" vacant lot in our neighborhood, when we found a big TV box that somebody had dumped there. Naturally the first thing us boys did was give the box a kick, which was not a good move - it turned out the box was harboring a swarm of honeybees, and out they came. They got to me first, and I knew I just needed to be calm. The bees completely covered my head - I couldn't see.
I don't know how long I could have stood there, because I was saved by my friend's big eek! moment as he , horrified by seeing his buddy's head covered with bee's, ran away as fast as he could. Like a cartoon bee cloud, the bee's on my head all went after him. I didn't get a single sting - my friend got quite a few.
I'm writing this because I just had an exciting eek moment yesterday here in Port Townsend. I was painting my parents house, and precariously perched 24 ft up a steep extension ladder at the very peak of the roof, painting the fascia board, when a huge wasp flew up near my head, then tried to land on my back! EEK! This couldn't be happening at a worse time! Luckily I had the good sense to have tied a rope off to the chimney to give me some balance security at least as I tried feebly, and very carefully, to wave this monster wasp off my back.
Anyway, the wasp then landed on the roof about 2 ft from my face, giving me an excellent view of it's exceptionally large (eek!) "stinger". When I say huge wasp, I mean about 2 inches long and hefty - the largest wasp I've seen anywhere. It was a very beautiful bug - the big abdomen and body all jet black, the legs strikingly banded by yellow, the eyes and antennae yellow also. The wings were a dark amber, and with its twitchy wasp movements reminded me of a Pepsis wasp - which have a nasty sting. Can you say eek?
S-l-o-w-l-y crawling back down the long ladder, I rushed to the computer and went to Bugguide.net to check out this humongous hymenoptera, which turned out to be a type of Sciricid Woodwasp (Urocerus californicus) which uses it's long ovipositor (not a stinger) to lay eggs in rotten wood rather than stinging innocent house painters.
You can see photos of this bug online - non of the photos really do justice to the gorgeous wasp I saw. What an eek moment that was.
Jeff Gibsonnow calm, inPort Townsend Wa

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