When I was a kid, I was terrified of spiders. The second most frightening creature? Anything that even remotely resembled a spider, but living in the Midwest, I mostly had to worry about garden-variety critters, no pun intended, like daddy long legs, cockroaches, and wasps. Those were the freakiest things my little bug-averse mind could imagine.

Then I moved to Sierra Vista.

I felt like I was on another planet. The prickly, cactus-y stuff, the dry, hot wind, GOAT HEADS. Everywhere I turned, everywhere I stepped, something was aiming to hurt me.

And then the monsoons hit. And the tarantulas were on the march. Tarantula mating season was here, and that was it – I was gonna live in terror or flee the state. Those were my only choices.

Except, they weren’t.

Instead of running away screaming, I bought a book at Hastings and started answering the question, “What in the world is THIS fresh hell?” as each new whazzahoozit entered my space. The book was a field guide to spiders, insects and snakes of the Southwest and during the summer I referenced this book at least three times a week.

Photo credit: Val Davidson/Townsquare Media
More creepy bugs from Cochise County. Photo credit: Val Davidson/Townsquare Media

The most off-world-looking critter I found had taken up residence in my shed one hot-as-Hades June day. It looked like a giant, flattened beetle, with long tentacles and pincers - and I was 100 percent sure this evil beast was going to murder me. Like, a lot.

My fear was misplaced. It looked like an alien, but it turned out to be a vinegarroon. I discovered that as long as you didn’t happen to be a spider or something smaller and buggier than said vinegarroon, you were safe.

Years of finding scorpions, sun spiders, and all manner of snakes and arachnids in and around my home – and now armed with the internet for fact-checks – have lowered my blood pressure and given me ways to cope with the insect uniqueness we have here in the Cochise County.

There is definitely power in knowledge and I’m always intrigued when various local Facebook chats highlight some newb's, “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS FREAKISH THING??!!” post. We desert veterans are pretty relaxed about our creatures here, and maybe even a little proud. After all, as our listeners on Facebook page responded when I asked the question, ‘What is the creepiest critter you’ve ever found in your house?’, your answers ranged from the obvious snakes, tarantulas and scorpions – to ‘my ex’ and ‘my teenagers’! We’re built tough in the desert and creepy crawlers are just a small fact of life.

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