Recently I devoted an entire communication to the dangers of mosquitos. Including the diseases they carry, how to avoid getting bitten and what to do if you do get bit.
I’m going to mention mosquitos again today because of how prevalent they are. But for the most part I want to focus on other backyard bugs that can cause big problems.
This is a war we can’t win merely with defensive tactics. Yes, it’s a good idea to defend ourselves against these menaces. And I will remind you how to do that.
But knowing what these bugs are capable of and the inevitability of their attacks, we also need to make a preemptive strike. I’ll provide some guidance on that as well.
Spiders don’t mess around
There are plenty of crawling bugs in our backyards that can wreak havoc with our enjoyment of the outdoors and our health.
Such as black widow, red widow, brown recluse, yellow sac, hobo and wolf spiders. Not to mention tarantulas.
A black widow’s venom is 15 times more powerful than a rattlesnake’s. Red widows have been known to cause permanent muscle spasms.
The brown recluse can scar skin and bring on nausea, weakness and joint pain. A yellow sac bite can cause bruising and blistering, while a hobo spider’s bite can result in long-lasting headaches.
Ants will make you say uncle
Ants seem pretty harmless, right? The way they march in an orderly fashion and carry several times their weight is admirable.
But some ants can also inflict plenty of damage. Especially red harvester ants, fire ants, Maricopa harvester ants and velvet ants.
Fire ants have a herd mentality. They gang up on victims with bites as bad as those of red harvester ants. If you come across a fire ant mound, don’t disturb it. There could be up to 100,000 of them in there.
Maricopa harvester ants have a very toxic venom. Velvet ants only pretend to be ants. They are actually brightly-colored wasps with powerful stings.
Wasps and bees
Speaking of wasps, the paper wasp sting is very painful and can produce large welts. And they can sting repeatedly because they don’t lose their stingers.
As a general rule, wasps and bees ignore us if we leave them alone. But routine lawn maintenance often brings us into unintended contact with them.
The German yellow jacket is also considered a wasp. They send approximately 500,000 people to emergency rooms each year. Their nests are often found under roofs and in attics.
Africanized honeybees have bred with European bees and created what became known as killer bees. Traveling in swarms, they’re fast, aggressive and deadly.
Hornets and scorpions
As unpleasant as bees and wasps can be, most generally take a backseat to hornets and scorpions. These guys take pain to a whole new level.
A fierce defender of its territory, the bald-faced hornet will sting intruders repeatedly. And it’s been known to temporarily blind an enemy by squirting venom into its eyes.
The Asian giant hornet is the largest and deadliest hornet in the world. It can destroy red blood cells and cause a human’s kidneys to shut down. This hornet has been seen in multiple states.
You don’t want to get stung by a scorpion’s curved tail. The Arizona bark scorpion’s venom can produce swelling, difficulty breathing, tingling, numbness, vomiting and muscle spasms. The striped back scorpion can inflict pain lasting several days.
Back to the mosquito
As promised, here’s another quick look at mosquitos. And why it’s important to avoid their bites if possible.
More than 1 million people die from a mosquito-transmitted illness annually around the world. That’s according to the American Mosquito Control Association.
Their buzzing in our ears drives us nuts. And the itching from their bites seems to last forever. Their real danger, of course, is West Nile virus.
It’s the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in America. And there are no medications or vaccines to treat people with West Nile virus.
Go on the defensive
It’s important to take precautions against mosquitos and other backyard bugs. For most people, bug repellants are effective.
If you’re concerned about the chemicals repellents contain, you can formulate your own using natural ingredients. Either way, concentrate the substance on exposed skin. Especially feet, ankles, lower legs and wrists.
Bugs are attracted by dark colors, so wear light-colored clothing. Looser fitting clothing also helps.
When possible, avoid spending too much time outdoors at dusk and dawn. Bugs love those shadier times of day.
Limiting the damage
If a mosquito or other backyard bug does bite you, try not to scratch the itch. Easier said than done, right?
Use mild soap and water to clean the area and remove contaminated particles. Then apply an ice pack to reduce swelling.
Some folks like to gently rub apple cider vinegar at the site of the bite. Others use a slice of raw onion or freshly cut garlic on the bite.
Of course, prevention is the best medicine. And a big help in keeping bugs at bay are items such as bug zappers. Others are citronella candles and tiki torches.
Don’t let mosquitoes and other backyard bugs ruin your outdoor fun this spring, summer and fall.