Well, it’s that time of year again. We need to take a look at some hazards facing outdoor folks. As we get older, new hazards tend to pop up, so this may have to be a two parter This week, we will be looking mostly at critters which can go a long way toward spoiling an outing.
Bees and wasps are found in large numbers in this part of the country. The sting of the honeybee is, of course, painful, but these insects are basically non-aggressive, stinging only as a last resort. They can sting only once, and even this costs the bee her life. Most people get stung by accidentally stepping on the bee while walking barefoot in the yard. Non-aggresion, however, is not the way of the wasp clan. Simply getting too close to a nesting site can get you into some nasty trouble. Wasps love to nest under the eaves of houses and in other sheltered areas. In fact,they’ll stake out a homestead almost anywhere. Once, much to my dismay, I discovered that they had built a nest under one of the seats of my boat. The worst part was that I found out in the middle of Lake Arthur. Dreadful business. Take my word for it, that takes all the fun out of your fishing.
Hornets are best known for their large, football shaped nests, often found hanging from tree branches. Hornets are both unpredictable and nasty by nature. I suppose that most everyone, at some time or other, has made the dumb mistake of disturbing a nest. For some reason, it’s just tempting. In actual fact, to do so at close range is to risk serious injury.
If I had to cast a vote for the meanest creature in nature, the yellow jacket just might be the winner. They’ll actually go out of their way to sting you, even if you aren’t bothering them. To make matters worse, they love to stick on you and sting you over and over. Their nests are well hidden and hard to see. Sometimes, they even nest in a hole in the ground. Run over the hole with a lawn mower, and you’ll have an experience you won’t soon forget. Yellow jackets can, and will sting right through clothing. It’s pretty hard to find something to like about them, so I’ve given up trying.
The black widow and brown recluse are our two most notable poisonous spiders, although all spiders bite, and the bites are very prone to infection. With the aforementioned two, the seriousness of a bite depends on the amount of venom delivered and the victim’s sensitivity to it. The spiders are often found in damp, dark places, where there are lots of insects for them to feed on.
No look at outdoor hazards would be complete without poisonous plants. The best known are poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Around here, poison ivy seems to be the most common. All three contain urushiol, a substance which can produce violent itching and blistering if it comes into contact with skin. Poison ivy can appear in vine or bush form, but it is easy to spot because of its groups of three leaflets. Some folks are more sensitive to this stuff than others. In my own case, I think I could develop a rash from touching a picture of the stuff. Nobody, however, is totally immune. You might touch the stuff twenty times with no problem, and get it on the twenty-first. Right now, as this is being written, I’m suffering from a very mild case of poison ivy. I think a little cat, by rubbing against my bare leg, gave it to me off her fur. If you are exposed to these poisonous plants, a good idea is to shower with Fels Naptha soap. So far, this has worked pretty well for me.
The outdoors are great, and these hazards shouldn’t keep you inside. Just keep a watchful eye.