It’s Summer and the California beaches are the vacation destinations of millions of people. It’s where we have fun in the sun, cool off in the water and relax on the sand under colorful umbrellas with cool drinks and our favorite books.
Reality check: what we often find are crowds, screaming kids, sand in awkward places, sunburn, packed parking lots, traffic jams, and “Bugs”!
Be prepared to share your summer beach experience with these annoying, “Beach Bugs”.
The common sand flea (Orchestia agilis), that is found on California beaches, is really an amphipod, or a small, shrimp-like crustacean. They burrow into the sand and they feed on decaying plant and animal matter that washes up on the shore, especially seaweed. They do not want anything to do with people. They obviously are not fleas, not even insects. However, they jump, similar to the way fleas do and they live in the sand, so hence the name sand flea. On other beaches, around the world, different species of sand fleas present problems for humans, and other mamals, as they bite to gather blood in order to reproduce and carry diseases, not unlike mosquitoes.
This is a general term that can be applied to any biting fly you might encounter at the beach, besides a mosquito. This could even be a type of horsefly that is associated with that type of beachy habitat. Most commonly, the name sand fly refers to flies in the family Ceratopogonidae. These are small biting midges, sometines refered to as no-see-ums, only 1-4 millimeters in length that live in aquatic habitats all over the world. Like mosquitoes, it is only the female that sucks blood to get protein in preparation for laying her eggs. The bite itself is too small to feel. It’s not until later when your skin starts to react with the proteins in their saliva that you start to feel the itch, and oh brother, what an itch!
Salt Marsh Mosquitos:
The Aedes taeniorhynchus, commonly known as the black salt marsh mosquito, and the Aedes sollicitans are frequent biters at Southern California Beaches. They lay their eggs in brackish and saltwater pools left over from rising then receding tides. There is no mystery about these agressive ladies. They’re big, they’re hungry and they will come after you any time of the day whether you’re swatting at them or not. They are larger than many freshwater mosquitoes, so their bites are bigger too. In other parts of the world, they are vectors of Venezuelan and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Luckily, in our area, this is not a problem, but they are a prime vector of dog heartworm, so if you live near the beach, keep your dogs on a heartworm preventative.
Sea Lice or Baby Jelly Fish (not bugs but they will bug you!)
What we call sea lice are actually larvae of jellyfish that float around in clouds in the ocean. Although they are tiny, they still possess those nasty stinging cells or nematocysts. If you’re swimming in the ocean, they can become trapped between your bathing suit and skin. This is when you can be stung. The stings cause intense itching and burning which result in a rash with small raised blisters. The rash can last anywhere from two days to two weeks, but most of the time they go away with no medical attention necessary, just lots of cortisone cream and Benadryl! Prime time for ‘Sea Lice” is May through August.
So, grab your sunblock, your bug repellent (with deet) and head out to the beach. Have fun, play safe and don’t let the “beach bugs” bite!
As an invasive species, Argentine ants have been extremely successful invaders. These aggressive, territorial ants, which can live in super-colonies comprised of thousands of queens and millions of workers, easily displaced native species as they spread across the United States. No other ant species has successfully stood up to these super troopers — until now.
So, what gives Asian needle ants (Brachyponera chinensis or Pachycondyla chinensis) an edge over the competition? Researchers have come to the conclusion that the Asian needle ant’s ability to tolerate cooler temperatures is a major factor in their success. In cooler months, both species become dormant and their basic activities slow way down. This temporarily stops reproduction, diminishing populations. Asian needle ants wake up and become
active much earlier inthe year than Argentine ants, getting a jumpstart on their competitors. They start to reproduce, forage for food, and build new colonies in Argentine ant territory as early as March, while the Argentine ants take another couple of months to rise and shine and get going. Finding their old territories already occupied, the Argentine ants typically move on to other areas.
In forests, Asian needle ants nest in rotting logs, under leaves and mulch, and under rocks. In human environments, they can nest anywhere from potted plants to under door mats, in landscaping materials, and even under dog bowls.
While they love to eat termites, Asian needle ants will consume just about anything it can get its’ mandibles around, from dead insects to other ants to human garbage. Its’ aggressiveness, habitat versatility and eating habits could mean a great change to our eco-systems. When these guys move in they eat other ants, devour their food sources, and take up their nesting spaces, forcing native ant species, such as Wood ants, Acrobat ants andThief ants, to disappear. This is a problem because, these native species play important roles in the ecosystem. Many native ants are gardeners—they till the soil and plant seeds, and the loss of these ant species will impact the health of our forests, and in the long-run, destroy them.
Not only is this ant of concern to its’ adopted habitats but it is also a health concern as it’s venomous sting causes burning and site redness (with dull nerve pain lasting up to 2 weeks) and in some extreme cases, allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). Scientists have deduced that more people are allergic to Asian ant stings than to Honeybee stings.
Although not yet arriving in California, in great numbers, they are heading our way. They have already been stopped 6 times at our boarders and appear to be hitch-hiking on imported food products, landscaping and plant materials and grandma’s potted plant.
What does an Asian ant look like? It is shiny, black with lighter orange legs, has a stinger and is only about 0.2 inches long. The Argentine ant, in comparison, ranges in color from light to dark brown, doesn’t have a stinger (but they do bite) and are about 0.08 inches in length, much smaller than the Asian needle ant.
Here in California, the brown recluse spider has been elevated to a major urban legend alongside UFOs, Bigfoot, the Jackalope and Elvis.
There is a great “fear” of brown recluse spiders in California, mostly because of misguided and sensationalized media hype. So say spider experts from the entomology department at the University of California, Riverside.
The common name“brown recluse spider“ refers to one species of spider, Loxosceles reclusa, which lives in the central Midwest: Nebraska south to Texas and eastward to southernmost Ohio and north-central Georgia. It gets its name from its color and its shy, reclusive, nocturnal nature.
This species of violin spider is not native to California and only a handful of these spiders (less than 10) have ever been collected here. Of those that were, there was some relationship between the spider and a recent move or shipment of goods from the Midwest.
There are other Loxosceles spiders in California, the most common being Loxosceles deserta, found in sparsely- populated areas of the eastern California desert. There are no established populations of native Californian violin spiders in urban non-desert locations. In southern California, a South American violin spider, Loxosceles laeta, also known as a Chilean recluse, which is supposedly more venomous than the brown recluse, inhabits a small area of Sierra Madre, Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park. According to researchers, there has not been one verified bite incident involving L. laeta in California because they mostly live in basements and steam tunnels and they rarely, hang out in plain sight, in people’s homes.
Not Recluse: Red, elevated and persistent or chronic wounds.
Recluse bites are whitish blue or purple (not red), flat (not elevated) and don’t last more than three months.
So, if a patient has a wound that is elevated or red or persists more than 3 months, something other than a brown recluse bite should be considered.
A red lesion would indicate a bite or sting by another insect/spider or might be a bacterial infection caused by :
streptococcus or anthrax or the result of both.
According to Dr. Vetter, brown recluse spiders are no longer than a half-inch in body length and have a dark brown violin shape on their body. They are venomous, but about 90 percent of bites self-heal, ab
out 10 percent result in a rotting flesh lesion, and less than 1 percent cause a systemic reaction that can be fatal.
There is no denying that necrotic wounds are occurring in California but as long as people keep the myth of the brown recluse, alive, the real causes of these wounds will continue to be misdiagnosed and effective treatment delayed.
Producing extreme wet weather conditions, Mother Nature is gearing up for another blood thirsty assault on mankind and this time we won’t see them coming.
The same conditions that encourage mosquitoes, give rise to the infamous “No-See-Ums”, also called, Sand flies (which they really aren’t) or Biting midges, in Western North America, “Punkies” in the Northeast, “Five-o’s” (because they do their biting around 5PM) in Florida and Alabama, “Pinyon gnats” in the Southwest, and “moose flies in Canada.
But no matter what they’re called, their bites are extremely annoying and reactions to these bites range from small red welts at the bite site to localized allergic reactions with burning and extreme itching, sometimes lasting hours.
Ceratopogonidae, or biting midges, are a family of small flies (1–4 mm long) in the order Diptera. Coastal and mountain areas provide their primary habitat and they love wetlands and salt marshes. They will also breed in, backyards, tree-holes, mud and damp leafy areas; anywhere there is moisture.
No-see-ums are the smallest blood-sucking insects on earth, and like the mosquito, only the females bite as they require the proteins from blood to produce their eggs. They have serrated mandibles (mouthparts) that take a chunk out of your skin, leaving a hole that fills with blood. Then they suck it up. They feed both on humans and other mammals. Several species will suck the blood of insects, including mosquitoes. Some species spread the livestock diseases Blue tongue andAfrican horse sickness and a condition calledSweet itch. In some countries, particularly in tropical regions, these insects can transmit parasites and diseases such as filarial worms in humans, but none are known totransmit diseasesto humans in the U.S.
Almost invisible, no-see-ums appear at dawn and dusk, just like mosquitoes, and have a 4- to 6-week life cycle. Late Spring and summer are their peak swarming season. Unfortunately, they continually breed, even during the winter months. In winter, they just slow down their life cycle and wait for favorable conditions in other life stages, like eggs and larvae. Their sole purpose in life is to breed, so after mating (males) and after egg laying (females) die. Females may lay 30-100 eggs in a clutch and up to 7 clutches before she dies. Because they do not feed, adults live for only 3 to 5 days. The biting midge larvae are bright red in color and live in the water until fully mature, and able to fly.
No-See-Ums are often confused with mosquitoes. This is because midges closely resemble mosquitoes (although much smaller)and their immature stages (eggs and larvae) share many of the same water sources. Like mosquitoes, midge larvae survive quite well in polluted, stagnant water.
Midge or a mosquito?
Midges, raise their forelegs at rest, while mosquito adults do not.
The wings of midges are shorter than their body, while mosquito wings are slightly longer than their body.
Midges have nonfunctional (reduced) mouth parts, while mosquitoes have a long proboscis (needle like projection). Mosquitoes pierce the skin with mouthparts like a syringe and suck up the blood. Midges, however, cut the skin with sharp mouthparts like a pair of scissors and then suck up the pool of blood that forms by rolling its mouth into a short feeding tube.
Midges form large mating swarms in the evening, which may occur over several days. While male mosquitoes may swarm when mating, they are typically in a defined location and difficult to see.
Midges only live long enough to mate and lay their eggs, while certain species of mosquitoes can live for months at a time.
Because of their prolific breeding habits and the fact that a lot of their breeding areas are protected by state law, midges are impossible to control completely. So, if you can’t kill them all, the next best thing is….
Avoid areas that are known to have high biting insect activity.
Keep vegetation surrounding dwellings to a minimum. Mow tall grasses and cut dense foliage. Let the sunshine in. Dry out wet, muddy areas and pick up leaf litter. Get rid of breeding areas.
Reduce moisture around the house. Get rid of standing water, don’t over water and empty any water holding containers (plant pots, toys, tires, stagnant ponds and pools etc.).
Batten down the hatches. Fix broken windows, install screens with extra small mesh, caulk openings into the interior of dwellings. Keep windows and doors shut if unscreened. Keep outdoor lights off during evening hours or install yellow outdoor lighting to deter midges. They’re attracted to light, but less so to yellow lighting.
Midges are weak fliers and do not like to seek blood meals when a moderate breeze is blowing, therefore, ceiling fans or other air circulation devices that increase air flow, inside dwellings, may also decrease biting midge activity indoors.
Wear light colored, long sleeve clothing and cover exposed areas of skin, when outdoors during midge activity periods, usually early morning and late afternoon, to minimize exposure.
Personal insect repellents (containing Deet) applied to the skin and clothing as directed usually give several hours protection.
Synthetic pyrethroid barrier sprays, applied around vegetation and exterior walls may substantially reduce midge adult numbers around treated premises for many weeks. Continuous, periodic, or seasonal treatments to the landscape is recommended.
Midges, even the biting kind, are important to the eco-system. They make up an essential part of the food chain as they provide food for fish and other aquatic animals, bats, other invertebrates, birds, lizards and even carnivorous plants like sundews and butterworts.
So, like the mosquito, we don’t want to live with No-See-Ums but our world can’t survive without them.
Monsters are things of nightmares, and as children we often needed Mom or Dad to check out the underside of the bed to make sure a monster wasn’t lurking there. If all was well, per the “Monster Check”, sleep would come if eyes were shut and covers pulled up tight. The theory was, if it couldn’t be seen, it wasn’t there.
But the blood sucking monsters known as Bed Bugs, Cimex lectularius, defy inspection, hide under, around and in our beds, and using the dark of night, stealthily creep out of hiding to attack singularly or in hordes. Leaving itchy red bites and psychological trauma (fear and loathing) in their wake.
Bed bugs are ancient monsters, sucking the blood of man, other warm blooded mammals and birds, in order to survive, and they have been feasting regularly since the dawn of human history. While bedbugs were largely eliminated by pesticides (DDT) after World War II, their populations have rebounded because of greater global travel, urban sprawl and pesticide resistance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While they are usually found hiding in and around bed frames and mattresses, bedbugs are extremely mobile and hide in furniture, curtains, carpet edges, lamps and switch plates, picture frames, luggage, purses, blankets, and clothing.
which cause extremely lethal infections. As of now, bed bugs are thought to have
spread these germs passively, by merely transporting them on their body parts or proboscis and leaving them behind as they crawl over open wounds or skin lesions.”
“As closely as bed bugs reside in human domestic spaces, it’s not surprising that they would acquire human pathogens such as MRSA and VRE”, states Richard Oehler, a researcher at the University of South Florida. How they can spread these pathogens between humans is the subject of ongoing scientific study.
Not so fun fact: According to scientists, an army of bed bugs can attack a person 500 times in one night. I’m glad I wasn’t the researcher that was sacrificed, in the name of science, in order to obtain that statistic!
Got bed bugs? Think you have bed bugs or do you want to be prepared just in case? Check out these links for prevention and extermination techniques.
Say hello to one of your oldest relatives, named Protungulatum donnae.
After a six-year study of the mammal family tree, scientists now believe that many mammalian species (people included) originated with a tiny rat-like creature that crawled the Earth tens of millions of years ago.
Fossils of the Protungulatum donnaelook like the best ancestor candidate for the mammal family tree extending back 66 million years, and preserved evidence revealed that the creature weighed around eight ounces, had a long fuzzy tail and ate bugs. Maureen A. O’Leary, anatomist at Stony Brook University, says, “The findings were not a total surprise. But it’s an important discovery because it relies on lots of findings from fossils and molecular data.” [The New York Times]
Researchers reported, the animal had several anatomical characteristics for live births that occur in all placental mammals (creatures that
nourish their young in utero through a placenta) and led to some 5,400 living species, from shrews to elephants, bats to whales, cats to dogs and, not least, humans.
So now it all makes sense, why scientists rely on mice and rats, when researching cures for human ailments or studying human behavior.
Their genetic, biological and behavioral characteristics closely resemble those of humans, and many symptoms of human conditions can be replicated in mice and rats. “Rats and mice are mammals that share many processes with humans and are appropriate for use to answer many research questions,” said Jenny Haliski, a representative for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.
Some examples of human disorders and diseases for which mice and rats are used as models include:
Gather round the old campfire or maybe just the family fire pit. It’s Halloween and time for tall tales, urban legends and “True Stories”. Mother Nature provides the best material for horror stories and here are a few tales to get you ready for
“The Scariest Time of The Year”!
Stop! Don’t Lick that Envelope!
This lady was working in a post office in California, one day she licked the envelopes and postage stamps instead of using a sponge.
That very day the lady cut her tongue on the envelope. A week later, she noticed an abnormal swelling of her tongue. She went tothe doctor, and they found nothing wrong. Her tongue was not sore or anything. A couple of days later, her tongue started to swell more, and it began to get really sore, so sore, that she could not eat. She went back to the hospital, and demanded something be done. The doctor, took an x-ray of her tongue, and noticed a lump. He prepared her for minor surgery.
When the doctor cut her tongue open, a live roach crawled out. There were roach eggs on the seal of the envelope. The eggs were able to hatch inside of her tongue because her saliva kept it warm and moist, just perfect for growing roach babies…
This is a true story … Yuck! Anyone remember the Alien movie?
A young woman was sunbathing on the beach and was just about to drop off to sleep, when she felt an insect running along her jawbone and then down her neck. She brushed it away, and thought nothing more of it.
After about a week, she noticed what she thought was a pimple growing and growing. The skin was inflamed and it looked like a blister. Then, one day, she was blow-drying her hair and hit the inflamed spot with her hair dryer. The blistered skin broke open and hundreds of tiny white baby spiders and pus came pouring out of the wound!
It seems that while she was sunbathing, her pores had enlarged enough that a mama spider could deposit her egg sac in one. They incubated under her skin until she smacked herself in the jaw with the hair dryer!
Entomologists at the University of Illinois explained to National Geographic that spiders aren’t built to inject their eggs under the skin. They may be able to plaster them on top of the skin, but that wouldn’t make much sense.
A man was found slumped in an elevator, very much dead with two holes in his neck. The coroner discovers the man died in a state of shock, and he’d lost a lot of blood. However, to everyone’s surprise, there’s no bloodstains, no fingerprints, and no signs of forced entry. Things take another bizarre turn when, one month later, a teenage girl is found dead in the same elevator with two identical puncture wounds in her throat, minus a liter or two of blood. People are starting to think there’s a vampire on the loose. What other explanation makes sense?
The police are getting desperate sothey stake out the apartment, posting a detective and a sergeant inside the elevator. The men ride the lift up and down for hours and hours, which turn into days. On the third day, the elevator suddenly shakes and comes to a halt. The power dies, plunging the men into darkness, which isn’t good news since the sergeant suffers from a mild case of claustrophobia. The two pull out their flashlights, and it’s then they hear the click, click, click on the elevator roof. As their heart rates jump, they realize something big—something alive—is up there, crawling around, and it’s then that they see the hole in the ceiling where a panel has fallen away. The detective shines his light toward the hole and has to fight back sheer terror as he sees a large, hairy head the size of a soft ball, covered with eight shiny eyes, all staring right at him.
The sergeant isn’t quite as calm. Not only does he have claustrophobia, he’s also deathly afraid of spiders. He panics and drops his flashlight, and suddenly the three-foot-long beast springs into the elevator and lands on the sergeant’s face, where it proceeds to sink its jaws into his cheek and suck out blood. The detective is paralyzed for a moment, but then he draws his gun and fires, shooting off one of the spider’s hairy legs. Wounded, the creature rushes past the detective and escapes out the hatch, leaving one more corpse and a traumatized detective. Is the story true? Probably not. But it’s something to think about if you’re ever stuck in an elevator. And heaven forbid that the lights go out!
A family had just purchased a small puppy. They had only had it for a week or so and decided to take it to the beach with them. When they arrived, they found out that they could not take the puppy onto the public beach because of a city ordinance. Instead of traveling back home to leave the puppy or leaving it in a hot car, they left it on its leash… tied to the car.
After a few hours, they came back to the car to discover that someone had stolen their puppy. The leash and collar were still there, tied to the car. They searched all around the parking lot for the puppy. No luck. They did, however, find another scruffy looking dog wandering the lot with no collar. Instead of leaving with no pet, they decided to give the mutt a home.
They brought it home and kept it in the house with them for a week. They then decided to take the dog to the vet to get his shots, etc.
Upon examining the dog, the vet made three discoveries:
Their new pet was not a dog, but a large dock rat.
Their puppy was not missing, but had been eaten by the rat.
Could it be witches, ghosts or goblins? Monsters, Vampires or Space Aliens? No, No, No!
It’s Rats,Bats and Spiders that top the list of the most unwanted and fright inspiring creatures ever created. But with all the disturbing stories and fear provoking encounters, are they really the vile creatures of nightmares or are they being given a bad rap?
Rats are one of those animals that can trigger fears that center around sheer numbers. A group of rats is called a pack, swarm, horde or mischief. Imagine a mischief of rats streaming towards you in a darkened alley; this is the stuff of nightmares. For others, it is the long, snakelike tail that freaks them out, or the seemingly long sharp teeth that line their mouths. Considering their factual and fictional involvement in the painful deaths and disappearances of so many people, it’s understandable that society has a fear of these pests that can carry disease and pestilence. Either way, rodents are seen as harbingers of doom and a carrier of death.
Rats in hstory: During the period from 1664-1666, London was ravaged by theGreat Plague. Wiping out an estimated 100,000 people, which equated to about 20% of the capital’s population at the time, the plague also known as the “Black Death”, was all down to the bites of fleas carried in the hair of black rats. Disastrously, the residents of the city mistakenly thought that the disease was being spread by stray dogs and cats and so set about killing them. Obviously, cats are right above rats in the food chain, so taking out the predators of the vermin only worsened the situation. Interestingly, it was only in the 1890s that it was discovered that rats were the reason why the plague spread so quickly.
Rats in literature: Rats were also central to the plot of a well-known story that warned against going back on your word. The Pied Piper of Hamelinwas a character brought in by the Mayor of the town of Hamelin to help clear an infestation of rats, promising him a healthy reward for the completion of said task. The Pied Piper then played his pipe and the rats followed, happily lured to their deaths in the nearby river. Having completed the job, the Piper returned for his payment, but the Mayor reneged. So, in revenge, the Piper returned and played his pipe again, this time hypnotizing the children of the town. They followed him and, dependent on the version you read, they either disappeared into a cave, never to be seen again or were returned once the Piper had received his fee. Modern motion pictures, likeWillardandBen have raised the rat to new hights of villainy, whereas,
Disney’s American Taleand Ratatouille have made them into loveable folk heroes.Considering rats can be purchased in just about any pet store these days, maybe rats have caught a rap they just don’t deserve.
Bats have become the stuff of nightmares because of their nocturnal habits and ability to navigate in the dark, and because of their weird appearance as they resemble both animal and bird at the same time. Bats, through history, have been associated with deities, supernatural forces and the occult. In the mythologies of differing cultures, they symbolize both good and evil, life and death.
The most well-known and fear-inspiring is the“Vampire Bat”,belonging to the subfamily, Desmodontinae.
It is a parasitic species that drinks the blood of other animals including domesticated animals such as cows, horses, and pigs. No, it does not drink human blood! But like the vampire of legend, it sits on its’ prey, bites, licks blood from the wound and the prey never feels a thing.
The common vampire bat is found in the tropics of Mexico, Central and South America and are the only mammals that feed entirely on blood.
Over the centuries their fear inspiring, blood sucking reputation has spilled over onto other bat species that might look as scary but have more benign insect based diets.
Bats in History: But which came first, the Vampire or the Bat? It’s the Vampire, whose first appearance was made in the 11th century and gave rise to the medieval, bloodsucking monster. Whereas, bats originally come from the Americas and were discovered some 400 years after the appearance of the “Vampire”. One theory suggests that the Slavic word for vampire comes from the Turikic word for an evil, supernatural being, Ubyr or witch. The word Upir as a term for vampire is found, for the first time in written form, in 1047 in a letter to a Novtorodian prince referring to him as “Upir Lichyi” or Wicked Vampire.
Bats in Literature: The list of folklore concerning bats is endless, and even Shakespeare got in on the act. In his famous play Macbeth, he had his three witches adding “wool of bat” to their steaming cauldron, and in The Tempest (Act I, Scene 2) he had Caliban place a curse on his master Prospero, which included the line:
“All the charms of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!”
Perhaps the most influential source for popularizing contemporary fear of bats was the fictional bestselling book, “Dracula” (written by the Irish author Bram (Abraham) Stoker (1847-1912) and first published in 1897). In it, he personalized the characteristics of the Vampire bat into what are now the traditional scary, and oddly romantic, blood sucking Vampire legends. Greatly inspiring the imaginations of other writers; his book led to a whole genre of stories and films.
Spiders were one of early man’s top, fear provoking creatures, way before humans crawled out of caves to hunt wooly mammoths. In fact, the fear of spiders, Arachnophobia, could be a product of human evolution, according tonew research out of Columbia University. Spiders presented such a great danger to humans during our early evolutionary stages that a fear of the species became part of our DNA.
However, there are other theories that have been put forth to explain human fear of spiders. Plymouth University Psychology professor, Jon May, suggests that it is their angular legs, dark colors and unpredictable movements that make arachnids so abhorrent to humans. It’s also possible that this fear is learned, as children are much more likely to become arachnophobic if they see parents or siblings reacting to the creatures fearfully. But regardless of which reason offers the correct explanation, we can all probably agree: spiders can be pretty creepy.
Spiders in History: As an ancient and powerful symbol found around the world, spiders have always provoked a wide variety of emotions in people: fear, disgust, panic, and sometimes curiosity and appreciation. This broad range of reactions has influenced origin myths, legends, art, literature, music, architecture, and technology throughout history.
In an ancient Greek legend, the world’s first spider was born from the pride of a woman, named , Arachne, which is where the name Arachnid comes from. North American indigenous cultures have often portrayed spiders as creators, helpers, and wisdom keepers. Egyptian mythology tells of the goddess Neith– a spinner and weaver of destiny – and associates her with the spider. Ancient Chinese folk culture celebrates spiders. They are thought to bring happiness in the morning, and wealth in the evening. They see spiders as lucky creatures, and “happy insects”. In Japan the Spider Princess,a mythological spider figure called Jorogumo, is able to transform into a seductive woman who entraps traveling samurai.
Spiders in Literature: Many folktales warn of the dangerous traits associated with spiders, such as ensnaring webs, lies and deceits, lethal venoms, silent attacks, and creeping terror. The spider gained an evil reputation in the 1842 Biedermeier novella by Jeremias Gotthelf, The Black Spider. In this tale, the spider symbolizes evil works and shows the moral consequences of making a pact with the devil.
The 1952 children’s novel Charlotte’s Webwritten by E. B. White, is notable for its portrayal of the spider in a positive light, as a heroine rather than an object of fear. More recently, giant spiders have been featured in books such as the 1998 fantasy novel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secretsby J.K. Rowling, where the giant spider Aragog is a supporting character and pet of grounds keeper, Hagrid.
In graphic novels, spiders are often adopted by superheroes or villains as their symbols or alter egos due to the arachnid’s strengths and weaknesses. One of the most notable characters in comic book history is the Marvel comic book hero, Spider-Man.
Spiders have been present for many decades both in film and on television. The spider web is used as a prop to adorn dark passageways, into the the unknown. Horror films, featuring the spider, include, the 1955 movie, Tarantula, which exploits America’s fear of not only spiders but atomic radiation during the nuclear arms race. Then came the 1975 low-budget cult films, The Giant Spider Invasion, and Kingdom of the Spiders, a 1977 film starring William Shatner, depicting the consequence of hungry spiders deprived of their natural food supply due to pesticides. The fear of spiders escalates inArachnophobia, a 1990 movie in which spiders multiply in large numbers and reign terror over man.
Have a craving for more info on why spiders creep us out? Paruse these at your leasuire.
Controlling the minds of other living creatures is science fiction or at best the stuff of horror stories, right? Well for some, becoming a real live zombie is a deadly reality. In the race for survival, mind control, has become something of a specialty for some creatures in the wild and even your own backyard.
Ants: Feasting on the slime of a snail turns ants into mindless zombies.
TheLancet liver fluke (Dicrocoelium dendriticum), forces its’ ant host to attach itself to the tips of grass blades, the easier to be eaten by grazing animals. The fluke needs to get into the gut of a grazing
animal to complete its life cycle. As an adult, the lancet liver fluke—a type of flatworm—resides in the livers of grazing mammals such as cows. Its eggs are excreted in the host’s feces, which are then eaten by snails. After the eggs hatch inside the snail, the snail creates protective cysts around the parasites and coughs them up in balls of mucus. Real Slime Balls.
These fluke-filled slime balls are consumed by ants. When the flukes wiggle their way into an ant’s brain, they cause the insect to climb to the tip of a blade of grass and sit motionless, where it’s most likely to be eaten by a grazing mammal. That way, the liver fluke can complete its life cycle. Due to the highly specific nature of this parasite’s life cycle, human infections are generally rare.
Rats and Mice: Parasite blocks fear of cats in rats and mice!
Oxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite whose life cycle can only be completed in the body of a cat. Rats can carry it, but it needs a cat to survive. And the way it finds a host is ingenious – rats who become infected suffer a change in their brain chemistry which causes them to become attracted to, rather than fearful of the scent of cats.It also makes them attracted to the scent of cat urine and fur and there is evidence that infected male rats are more sexually attractive to females, transmitting the parasite sexually. Obviously, these rats don’t live long lives. Humans can also contract toxoplasmosis – some estimates indicate 1/3 of the world’s population has it. Occasionally fatal, it is particularly dangerous for people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women (which is why women are told to avoid cat litter boxes when they are expecting). Toxoplasmosis has also been linked to many other ailments, including schizophrenia.
Crickets and Grasshoppers: Non-swimmers dive to their deaths.
Horsehair worms (Paragordius tricuspidatus) live inside grasshoppers and crickets, sabotage their central nervous system and force them to jump into pools of water, drowning themselves. Hairworms then swim away from their hapless hosts to continue their life cycle. First, a tiny horsehair worm larva is eaten by the larva of another insect, such as a mosquito or mayfly. Once this emerges from the water, a cricket or grasshopper will snatch it up. Then the horsehair worm begins to rapidly develop inside its’ host.
body of water. The unfortunate cricket then drowns itself, allowing the horsehair worm to emerge and reproduce. Researchers have noticed as many as 32 worms emerging from one host cricket. From the outside, you can’t tell if a cricket or grasshopper has been infected, but neurologically, the worm is in control.
Fish: Dance to their Death.
The fluke (Euhaplorchis californiensis) is common in Southern California and Baja California estuaries. Its’ life begins in an ocean-dwelling horn snail, where it produces larvae
that then seek their next host, a killifish. (See “The Puppet Master’s Medicine Chest.”) Once it finds a fish, the parasite latches on to its gills and makes its way into the brain. But it doesn’t stop there. The fluke needs to get inside the gut of a water bird in order to reproduce. So inside the killifish’s brain, thefluke releases chemicals that cause the fish to shimmy, jerk, and jump, attracting the attention of hungry water fowl. Researchers, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that the parasite decreases serotonin and increases dopamine levels in the fish’s brain. The change in brain chemistry causes fish to swim and behave more erratically. These frantic movements are intended to attract the attention of birds, which eat the fluke infested fish. The flukes mate inside the bird, and their eggs are released back into the water in the bird’s droppings to be eaten by horn snails starting the cycle all over again.
Facts we wish were fiction. More Mind Control Stories.
September 22nd, marked the fall equinox this year; Where Summer blasts our days with her last hot breaths, and Fall creeps in with his first cool evening breezes.
It’s the time when, days and nights begin as equals and where days slowly shorten and nights lengthen.
It is the summer’s great last heat, It is the fall’s first chill: They meet.
–Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt
It all has to do with our swiftly tilting planet. The marking of Fall traditionally comes with the equinox, when the Sun’s path through the sky takes it from rising due East to setting due West. Since our seasons are caused by the tilt of Earth’s axis relative to its orbital plane, the equinox roughly marks the transition from longer periods of daylight to shorter ones or vice versa.
So what does this have to do with the world of insects? The two biggest environmental changes insects are genetically wired to perceive are the length of days (daylight) and change in temperature. The shortening of daylight hours and the beginning of cooler evenings, in the fall, signals the time for winter preparation. Unfortunately, your warm home may be irresistible to insects and other pests seeking shelter from the cold.
Even soil-dwelling insects, receive the “signal” to migrate deeper into soil. Their cue is soil temperature – as soil gets cooler, the insects dig down deeper.
In warmer climates, cool evening temperatures and the advent of the rainy season often sounds the starting bell for the annual insect race indoors and unfortunately, your warm home may be irresistible to insects seeking shelter from the cold.
The Top 5 Fall Pests Looking to Make Your House, Their Home.
Rodents. Rodent control and exclusion should be your number one fall priority, as mice and rats scurry to find warm, dry places to over-winter. Walls, closets, pantries, sub-areas, basements and attics are inviting spaces for these pests. Species to watch for: deer mice, house mice, roof or tree rats.
Flies. Fly populations are at their height in early fall because they have had all year to increase their numbers. As temperatures drop, some flies look for a retreat inside homes from the cool weather outside. The south- and west-facing walls of your home may attract flies in search of heat. If those flies are already overwintering, a warm day may bring them out of hiding. It’s important to remember that some flies can cause bigger problems than just irritating buzzing; they have the potential to carry diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid, dysentery, and diarrhea. Species to watch for: cluster flies, fruit flies, house flies.
Stinging Insects. As fall approaches, stinging insects such as yellow jackets and other wasps can be quite active. After working all summer to create the largest nest possible, it becomes a struggle to feed so many with temperatures dropping and food supplies dwindling. Under such stress, the colony can become hostile and individuals can split off and start looking for nesting sites that will provide better shelter and more access to food sources. Species to watch for: yellow jackets,honey bees.
Ants. Cool autumn weather may bring ant trails indoors. Ants sometimes move their colonies into the walls of the home or beneath a slab of foundation to escape the chill. Effective ant controlis about locating the nest and preventing ants from getting inside. Species to watch for: carpenter ants, pavement ants, odorous house ants.
Occasional Invaders. This time of year can include a shopping list of unique fall insects, commonly referred to as occasional invaders. This includes stink bugs, boxelders and ladybugs. These pests enter homes in search of overwintering sites where they can wait out the winter. While these insects typically do not cause structural damage, they are generally considered a nuisance.
Species to watch for: stink bugs, lady bugs, boxelders, spiders.
We humans need to “take a lesson” from industrious insects, whose genetic imperative it is to continually prepare for life’s challenges, in order to assure its’ species successful survival. Remember Asoeps Fable about the Ant and the Grasshopper? See Disney’s 1934 version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3V9uL_ruafU
Now is the time to prepare our homes for the Fall and Winter insect invasions.
Screen attic vents and openings to chimneys, and any other areas where homes may be open to the outdoors, like mail slots and animal doors.
Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry. Pests are attracted to areas of moisture, something they need to survive.
Seal cracks and crevices on the outside of the home using caulk and steel wool. Pay close attention to where utility pipes enter the structure. Some rodents can fit through a hole the size of a dime.
Keep kitchen counters clean, store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles.
Replace weather-stripping and repair lose mortar around the foundation and windows. These are easy ways to keep not only pests, but also cold air out of the house.
Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and keep shrubbery trimmed. Removing areas where pests can hide near your home can reduce the chance of them finding a way inside.
Install door sweeps and repair damaged screens. Torn window screens and cracks under doors are an ideal entry point for household pests.
Inspect items such as boxes of decorations, package deliveries, and grocery bags before bringing them indoors. Pests can find creative ways to get inside a home. Shake out or inspect anything that has been left or stored outside.
Avoid leaving pets’ food dishes out for long periods of time. Pests don’t discriminate between people food and cat food.
Have a proper outdoor drainage system. Installing gutters or repairing an existing system will help draw water and moisture away from your home, preventing any leaks or build up that might attract pests.