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The gray fox can be an elegant and resourceful neighbor

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Doomsday "preppers" believe the end is near

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About the cover



Backyard Baddies

Top 10 summertime pests to watch out for.


It's full-blown summer, and with the hot weather, attendant humidity and hoped-for monsoons, the top backyard bad critters are out and about and most likely they are grouchy and defensive!

Rattlesnakes top my list of undesirables; around here that means western diamondbacks, prairie and blacktails. All three species can range in size from one foot to six feet in length. Just remember, the bigger the snake, the more venom it can inject, and they can strike about one-third their length!

A good friend just related to me this tale: He had his house stained and oiled this past May and in the process, the workers removed all of the accessories and piled them on the carport. Two days later they picked up the stuff and were greeted with a four-foot diamondback that had relaxed under the pile!

If you encounter a rattler, the best option is to call the animal control or the police and let them handle it. You can't let him alone or he might very well stay permanently!

Second on my list is the Africanized honey bee. A hive of these critters can and will kill anything that disturbs them. If you see evidence of bees living on your property, call an exterminator. And don't go near them! Absolutely don't spray them with water; that pisses them off! If anything, spray with smoke to calm them or spray them with dish detergent in water; the soapy suds smother them.

I remember an old Forest Service worker tell me that he quit cutting firewood in the warm months because the Africans were prevalent in these neck of woods. 'Nuff said.

Number three on the list is the imported fire ant. I remember cleaning the carpets in a house in Lordsburg and I had put my equipment on the carport. When I went to clean it, I was at once covered in fiery bites! I looked in horror at my equipment and it was covered with red ants and so was I! The bites felt like white-hot miniature pokers. The ants were a total copper red over their bodies, which are somewhat smaller than that of the domestic fire ant. Actually brown and red, the domestic fire ant builds the big, dome hills that can be seen in backyards.

Number four on the list is the Apache violin spider, a close cousin to the notorious brown recluse and just as nasty. This tiny beastie's bite will atrophy your flesh and turn it putrid in a matter of days, and it is very hard to rectify once the flesh rots! From first-hand experience I can tell you that it is important not to scratch the bite, which looks like a tiny red dome with a white spot on top and is extremely itchy. Once you scratch it, the bite site develops a crater and spreads out. Go immediately to the emergency ward!

Violins like dark, cool places like closets, under sheds, dark corners and under campers, where I encountered mine. They don't like heat and light.

Number five is the good ol' black widow — a shiny black spider with a red hourglass on its body. It builds a fine, silky, highly sticky web in woodpiles, old tires, the insides of cinder blocks, etc. The web is scattered and has no pattern to it, so beware.

The black widow that bit my thumb was under a shed that I put my hand into, in a dumb moment not knowing what was under there. That too meant a quick trip to the hospital when my entire left hand became numb!

Next is the scorpion; most that I have encountered are translucent and about an inch long. They usually aren't deadly but they can cause a huge amount of white-hot pain and discomfort for weeks. I knew a lady who got stung on the hand, developed loss of muscle control and weakness after a month and died within the year; she had a rare allergic reaction.

Number seven is the inevitable centipede — ugly, yes, and it can leave you with a nasty, festering bite from venom that it injects by mouth or pincers on its first pair of legs. Don't leave your clothes on the floor if you want to keep this beast away! They also like dark corners, under carpets, closet floors and floor vents. Refrigerator bottoms hide them, too. Outside they prefer leaf litter, under rocks and wood or any place damp.

The good news is that they eat spiders and cockroaches!

Next in line is another spider, the wolf spider. This is about the nastiest-looking of the arachnids. It can grow to the size of a silver dollar. It, too, can give a rather nasty bite, and the site will be red, swollen and extremely painful. This is a truly aggressive spider, not in the least afraid to attack you if it feels threatened. The venom may cause swollen lymph glands. Later the site will cause the skin to become black, but don't worry, most times it is not fatal!

These spiders like dirt. They can be found in holes in the ground, dark corners, rock piles and woodpiles. They especially like dirty, filthy work sheds and garages.

Number nine on my list is shared by the diminutive and harmless-looking tiny black ant, brown ant and the chigger. These are spiteful little critters; the ants are no longer than an eighth of an inch, while the chigger can hardly be seen at all. The ants leave a tiny, painful bite that doesn't last all that long, more annoying than anything, while the chigger (no-see-um) leaves a red welt with a white center very similar to a red ant bite. But when you scratch open a chigger bite it hurts like crazy for days along with the itching!

All three get you when you lie on the ground, especially on leaves in the shade. The ants will surely get you if you lean against a tree on which they have a trail. I know first hand about that, too. They made me strip naked in the middle of the woods as I flailed at their little bodies biting me all over!

Lastly I count the bull snake. Small snakes are no big deal, but one that is over five feet long has an attitude! They swell their heads and vibrate their tails to mimic a rattler, and they do bite. I knew one woman who picked one up and it gave her a painful bite to the hand. So watch your curious kids and dogs!

I had a dog bitten once after she pestered a six-footer. The bull snake bit her on the shoulder and it festered for days and the hair all fell out around it. The bite isn't fatal but it can be nasty due to rotten bacteria in its mouth and on the fangs that can cause infection. So be warned!

As always keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may The Forever God bless you too!



When not ramblin' outdoors, Larry Lightner lives in Silver City.

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