What's In Your Mailbox? - Mailbox Infestations and More - Part One Creepy Crawlies
Mailbox Manna or Monstrosity?
Americans look forward to checking the mail every day, hoping that some magical mailbox manna will have fallen from heaven, but not everything we find in our mailboxes is good. Yes i know bills are bad - don't shoot me I only deliver them, but bills don't have feelers, wings, and slimy legs that can crawl up your sleeve, and bills can only bite into your bank account - they can't actually take a chunk out of your skin, leave a nasty welt, or send you to the hospital for several days to receive antivenom treatment.
The purpose of this multi-part series of articles is to discuss things often found in mailboxes that are not made out of paper and are not pleasant. The repulsive mailbox invaders that follow were polled from letter carriers across the country in response to the question:
I have divided these responses from my letter carrier kith and kin into four categories, so that as of this writing the series will consist of four segments. These are:
1. Creepy Crawlies - this article in particular, which will deal with beasts having six, eight legs or more
2. Warm and Fuzzies - Warm-blooded, mostly furry mammalian creatures that take refuge in or around your mail receptacle
3. Slime Balls - Our cold-blooded friends, meaning reptiles or amphibians either alive or dead that have been found hunkering down on top of your bank statements and magazines
4. Homo sapien horrors - Anything generated by a human being - either coming out of the human body or created by human hands
A Day in the Life
As an example of some of the ghastly beasts that letter carriers stumble across on a daily basis as they struggle to deliver your mail safely and efficiently, read this day in the life from my friend Michelle Mobilio from Barre, Massachusetts:
What follows are more true confessions from more letter carriers like poor Michelle who constantly have to confront, retreat from, or gingerly sidestep any number of obstacles in service of the US Mail. I hope you enjoy this series, and I hope it serves to make you proceed with caution before cracking open that mailbox lid and sticking your hands into the unknown.
I am quite frankly surprised that my letter carrier poll did not return any results for the Earwig (Forficula auricularia), which is quite frankly the most disgusting mailbox invader that I have ever come across in my 20 plus year postal career. But since it is my soapbox here I am going to include this vile little six-legged beast even if nobody else seems bugged by it.
Very early in my tenure as a letter carrier I opened an older mailbox that was literally inundated with these filthy wretches armed with their intimidating looking rear-mounted pinchers that look as though they could inflict a nasty gaping wound onto the hand of the non-vigilant mailman. Apparently the earwigs were using the mailbox as a maternity ward because there were hundreds of them. I have gagged at the sight of earwigs ever since, and the mere thought of them is enough to send me into spastic convulsions.
Despite their disagreeable appearance, however, the scientific community assures us that earwigs are completely harmless to humans. Although the common name of the insect comes from the misguided popular belief that earwigs crawl into our ears and eat our brains when we're not paying attention, like the brain burrowing Ceti eel in the Star Trek movie The Wrath of Khan, these old wives tales are completely unfounded - though they are certainly useful lies to tell children to keep them from sticking their hands into dark dirty places. Regardless of the bad reputation, earwigs do not feast on human gray matter, and use their intimidating pinchers in battle with other earwigs.
Any port in a storm is apparently the motto of the members of the ant kingdom, and when their version of the Titanic is sinking they will seek refuge in the nearest dry spot, which just may be your mailbox. The real problem is that they seem to grow frisky in the face of disaster and the mating instinct is sometimes triggered right there in the cheap roadside motel where your mailman drops your letters. To compound the problem, the pest control experts will tell you that mailboxes are like baby incubators that heat up during the day and provide the perfect breeding ground for ant and other insect babies. The result is letters that are littered with ant eggs and larvae, as you can see in this picture by Mailman Joseph in Fair Oaks, California. Okay, I know I said get a room guys, but couldn't you find one at reasonable rates on the seedy side of town?
Your local letter carrier will tell you that mailboxes of vacant houses are particularly prone to ant infestations. Sherrie from Shaw, Mississippi tells a story about a newbie who kept stuffing letters into a vacant mailbox, oblivious to the message the piling up mail was trying to tell him, and in the process created the perfect ant hotel.
What to do about your mailbox ant infestation? Linda from St. Albans, West Virginia, recommends spraying Bounce dryer sheets with ant killer, leaving them in the mailbox, and replacing the sheets every couple of weeks. She's been teaching this technique to her postal customers for years, and it seems to dampen the amorous intentions of ants everywhere.
Bees, Wasps, Hornets, and other Flying Frights
As a letter carrier I personally don't mind the gentle buzzing of bees in my vicinity, but when they are swarming in a frenzied hive where your Social Security check was yesterday they turn into a different beast altogether, and hornets and wasps are enough to send me running back to the LLV screaming like the female protagonist in a cheap slasher movie.
Letter Carriers across the country encounter these flying buzzers all of the time and most of them have lived to tell the story. John from New York opened a mailbox on a really hot day and found a hornet's nest inside. My friend Tina T. from an undisclosed location came across wasps building a nest in a set of centralized mail receptacles. She claims they didn't have stingers but were "annoying" nonetheless. Annoying, for crying out loud. Ice water must run in Tina's veins because I would have been so out of there and would have never taken the time to examine these intricate anatomical details.
Terry from Arizona seems equally fearless. When queried about what sort of creatures she has found inside mailboxes she said, and I quote "Nothing...just yellowjackets." Just Yellow Jackets? To me Yellow Jackets are yellow and black striped demons with wings. I shamefully admit that I let my wife climb up with the can of spray when we find them buzzing beneath the eaves of our house, claiming I'm too big for the ladder. As I quake in my shoes from my spot holding the ladder I tell her "Don't worry I've got your honey!" but I have been known to run when it hits the fan and the angry bugs start buzzing.
I don't feel so bad, because Marcia in Fort Myers, Florida also took off running when she came across a wasp nest on a porch while delivering a package. On the other hand, James from St. Paul, Minnesota didn't have a problem with flying insects but he did encounter some future flyers when he stuck his hand into a mailbox full of maggots. You still want to be a mailman?
The black widow spider is the most obvious eight legged horror that Letter Carriers across America find lurking around the dark innards of mailboxes, but certainly not the only one. I have done battle with black widows many times in my postal career, and a rural carrier in our office was laid out for several weeks once after coming out on the losing end of a battle with one of these spiders. But are black widows the only eight legged mailbox freak that impedes the smooth delivery flow of America's mail? Not hardly!
Mary in Madison, Wisconsin found a GIANT red and white striped spider the size of her hand on a mailbox. It was so enormous she thought it had to be a joke, until it moved. Greg from New York stumbled across a scorpion. Erika from a place called Bainbridge Island was bitten by a Brown Recluse Spider on the ankle and had an infection that lasted for weeks. Roger in Grand Prairie, Texas almost manhandled a real live tarantula that was sunning itself on the lid of the mailbox he was delivering to. The tarantula that caressed musical Mail-lady Hillary's fingers was fake, but it still freaked her out. Even plastic bugs can give letter carriers fits if strategically placed by skilled practical jokers.
The Horrors Don't Stop There...
Other Miscellaneous Mailbox Abominations
Some of the creeping crawling horrors that America's letter carriers find inside the gloomy bowels of your unkempt mailboxes could not be so neatly categorized, so I have included a miscellaneous category here to make sure nobody gets left out.
What you see above is a crab that Kay in Oklahoma City found clawing its way upward on the base of a mailbox. I just checked the map to verify that Oklahoma City is a long way from any beaches. It must have been a hell of a trip for this determined practical joking crustacean - to crawl all the way from the distant ocean to scare a nice Mail-lady who never expected to see Tom Hank's dinner from the movie Castaway right there in the heart of Tornado Alley.
Cockroaches probably merit their own category, but surprisingly enough the only letter carrier to report these repugnant pests was Donald in Birmingham, Alabama, who stirred up a nest of cockroaches and had some of them crawl up his arm. Donald's response was "Yuk," which automatically earns him the prize for the understatement of the year.
What is to be done America? Are we going to let our mailboxes continue to be held hostage by these spineless, soulless, slimy, slithering, creeping, buzzing, gnawing brutes? The experts recommend keeping your mail receptacles dry and away from the yummy plants that attract the invaders, but even if the interior of the mailbox remains pest free there is still one creepy crawly I forgot to mention that finds the wooden post it sits on to be a delectable menu item. So try as you might something is going to entually make mincemeat of your mailbox, and it just might be our friend the termite. Until next time...