Itching and Scratching…Ouch

You may plan to spend your summer out-of-doors amid the various forms of wildlife in this great nation. Unfortunately,many of these wonders bite, infect, scratch, or worse. There are a variety of plants, snakes, and insects that call the outdoors home. The key to avoiding problems is to know which troublesome “critters” to recognize and prevent from harming you in the great “Ouchdoors”.

The first plant is Poison Ivy. This is a bright green plant with three leaves. It grows anywhere it can find sunlight and a little water. Contact with this plant can cause a severe rash. Some people do not have to come in contact with the plant to get the rash. Some people can contact other items that have contacted the plant and experience the rash.  Then there is Poison Oak. This is another plant that can cause a rash. It works similar to Poison Ivy. It should also be avoided whenever possible. Poison Sumac is the third plant in many areas that can cause a rash. All of these plants can be found and are easy to get to. Some yards may even have them.

There are a lot of snakes in the United States. The Copperhead is a very common snake in many areas. Like all snakes, they like to hide during daylight and are very active at night. You can also see snakes during the early morning hours sunning themselves to warm up. They are cold-blooded creatures and can use the sunlight to warm themselves. The Copper Head is normally found in and around wooded areas with a lot of insects, small mammals, and water to drink.  Another snake found in many areas is the Cotton Mouth. This snake is much darker in color and prefers to live around water. A local pond, creek, or river suits them just fine. When they open their mouth the inside is a bright white. You never want to see them open their mouth. It usually means they have been provoked. They are like most other snakes and live off of insects and perhaps some small mammals. This snake is at home in the water and is an excellent swimmer. They can also jump from the water into a small boat if provoked. Don’t ask me how I know this, just trust me.  The Mississauga Rattlesnake is similar to the other snakes addressed in this essay. It is a darker rattlesnake and blends in very well in shadowy wooded areas. This snake feels right at home under a stray piece of wood or other objects under which it can hide. It makes a pronounced rattling noise from its tail when agitated.  Next is the Timber Rattlesnake. This snake is a little brighter in color and still blends in well with wooded areas. This snake will also make a rattling noise with its tail when it is agitated. These and other snakes will normally lash back when picked up and try to bite anything or anyone near them.  The Western Pigmy Rattlesnake is the last of the rattlesnakes. It is smaller than the other rattlesnakes. It also has a little different color scheme. All snakes should be left alone. The average snake does not set out to bite a person. We are much too big; however, if provoked the snake will bite humans, even very big ones.

The Brown Recluse is the first and maybe the most dangerous insect. Its bite causes the skin around the bite to die and may take several weeks to work its way through the cycle. This spider likes to be around water sources and can often be found in porta-potties (modern outhouses). It can be identified by its brown color.  Next is the Black Widow. This is another spider that has a dangerous bite. You can recognize it by the distinct black color with the red hourglass on its back. It is found in many of the same areas that all spiders are found, wet damp areas. When we speak of insects there is the multi-talented tick. The vampire of the insect world known to most of us as a freeloader on pet dogs and cats; however, it can and does attach itself to humans. There are several different kinds of ticks. The larger ones are the normal tick while the smaller size full grown ticks are usually the Deer Ticks. There is also the ever-popular flea in most areas. These are normally seen on pet dogs and cats too. If they can get into a house in large numbers they can bite humans and cause small welts around the ankle area. Let’s not forget the always popular Mosquito. You will find more Mosquitoes than you ever wanted. Mosquitoes like water and can be found in and around water sources. They prefer stagnant water and will make a home in an old flower pot, tire, hole, or bucket. Once they find a home they breed to their hearts content. Using repellents and eliminating sources of stagnant water can help keep the population down.

Learn more about the plants, snakes, and insects that call your part of the world home. Then you can avoid these troublesome “critters” and prevent them from harming you in the great “Ouchdoors”.

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning spent over 20 years in the safety profession. His final safety position was as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Commerce. He began writing in 1994, published his first book in 1998, and began writing professionally in 2015. He has authored and coauthored articles, written books, and chapters for technical books and stories for anthologies.
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