Thursday, June 30, 2016


Poker and Ace found a home on our sofa.
    The politically correct term is rescued animals though I'm not sure where that business originated. I suppose it must have come from shelters that help to provide homes for pets others no longer want or who can not provide for their care.
   As our population ages pet owners with health issues face difficult choices. A friend who has spent the last few months in and out of hospitals found a new home for her aging Australian Shepard. The dog bonded with her new caretakers. It hurt to see her seek pets from someone else, but being a wise pet owner she decided not to move her dog again. Now she visits her dog and they're both happy.
   Over a lifetime of sharing our home with animals we've owned both kinds. The carefully purchased pure breeds and those that wandered in and took up residence in our hearts.
   Brandy was an Irish Setter whose heart was pure country. He seldom left the yard when we lived on the farm, but get him in the city and he would keep running. The only way to catch him was drive up beside him in the truck and open the door. Then he'd hop right in. One below zero night Nash had to use this method to bring him home. We had to make a painful decision to put him down because he developed a bad heart. It wasn't fair to let a gallant companion exist on pills and constant visits to the vet for a few more months to ease our sorrow.
   Brandy met Pounce when the tiny kitten came out fighting as the big dog backed him into a corner. We'd gotten the kitten from the pound to help keep down the mice in the barn. The only time that cat spent in the barn was when Nash was feeding the cattle or housing hay. The rest of the time he was near the house or in Nash's lap.
   One afternoon Nash called me to look out the front door. In a hay field near the house were several deer and stalking through the high grass was Pounce intent on catching some large prey. One of his favorite resting places was across the entrance to the calf feeder where he prevented the calves from getting to their food. The barn swallows that nested in the rafters of the barn were his arch enemies. Pounce came to Ono County with us as a house cat and lived to the rip old age of 18.
   The pets we've had since moving to Ono County have been the garden variety ones others have dumped in our neighborhood. Today we have two "found" dogs that are ten years old. It's questionable as to who found who so when someone inquires about their breed we say "followed us home," which is the truth.
   They are chipped, have been neutered, and get their shots on a yearly bases. They will not endure cats or another dog near our house. We hope they will be with us for many years to come.


Saturday, June 25, 2016


by Dac Crossley
Dac Crossley
June - when those pesky little chigger mites are in full season. We have itchy welts and the urge to scratch places that are not consider polite in company. Chiggers or redbugs, are the larval stage of big red mites that live in the soil, where they chase down and eat other little critters. The larval babies are parasites and are prone to find you and me. There are 60 different kinds in the southeast, though fortunately most of them don't bite us.
   Pest chiggers will attack almost any vertebrate animal they can find, but their preferred hosts are reptiles. Find a log or brush pile with scaly lizards around it and you'll probably find chiggers. Look closely at that log, wave your hand over it to cast a shadow, watch carefully and you can see a swarm of little red dots begin to move.
   A myth about chiggers is that they burrow into your skin. Remember the bottles of clear nail polish you used to cut off the air to the little critters so they'd die?
   Truth is they do not burrow into your skin. They crawl up to the base of a hair, or find a tight place in your clothing, settle down, and begin to feed on your skin. They do this by injecting saliva which dissolves your skin. They suck up the juices; they don't take solid food. Chiggers repeat the process, and each injection of saliva forms a feeding tube that goes deeper and deeper into the skin. Your skin reacts, swells, and begins to itch.

   That's when you scratch. And scrape off the chigger. Dead end for the mites, and you're stuck with several days of a severe itch. A little red spot is visible at the center of the bite, but it isn't the chigger. It's the remnants of the feeding tube.
   What to do. The best strategy is to avoid being bitten in the first place. The methods you use to avoid ticks work for chiggers also: stay away from bushy, woodsy places. Tuck your pants legs into your boots. Take a hot, soapy shower as soon as you get home. And dash a little powered sulfur around your ankles; that will repel the chiggers. Fill an old sock with flowers of sulfur (see your druggist), and just beat your ankles with it before you head into the garden. Sulfur is a good inorganic miticide.
   Once you get a few bites there aren't many remedies. A southern folk remedy uses a mixture of salt and butter. Generally, any salve with benzocaine or other topical analgesics will help. Try not to scratch (yeah, right).
   Nash Black's Granny remedy is Absorbine Jr. It relieves the itch so you don't scratch.
   The good news is that the population of chiggers seems to reach a peak in mid-July and then starts to decline. There is a little, smaller peak of abundance in late August. But by hunting season the chigger mites are gone.
   Dac Crossley is the foremost authority on mites in the United States and retired from the University of Georgia. He grew up near the King Ranch in Texas and now writes award winning westerns. Follow him at  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bug Bites - Brown Recluse Spiders

   All spider bites will leave bumps, sting and itch, but the Brown Recluse is the worst in this area of the United States. The Brown Recluse secretes a necrotic venom. It's one of two in the US with a medically significant venom, the other is the Black Widow.
  If you run a search on the Internet under images on Google there are numerous pictures of the horrible rash, blisters, and sores that plague the victims of a single bite from this spider.
   The Brown Recluse ranges from Kentucky to Texas, but have also been found in several mid-western states so they're spreading, which may be related to warmer temperatures in the area.
   A simpler answer is more likely to be interstate commerce where they travel in boxes of produce and are later carried home in grocery bags.
   It can range in coloration from whitish, dark brown, to a blackish grey. An adult is about the size of a penny. If you're close enough to observe it has one strange characteristic - it has three (3) pairs of eyes unlike other spiders that have one pair.
   The problem is you can find this 'house spider' almost anywhere it is dark and dry. A favorite place outside the home is in a woodpile, so be careful when you're taking wood into the house for a cozy fire.
   In your home they can be anywhere, under the bed, in closets, cabinets, behind the furniture, in a chest behind and under the drawers, out-buildings, in the basement, behind books on shelves, in workshops, behind pictures, under tables, in the garage and the list can go on and on if there is a relatively undisturbed pot that is warm and dry.
   Some years ago a neighbor was working in the crawl space under his house and by accident stuck his head in a nest of Brown Recluse spiders that had recently hatched.
   He was able to drive home to Louisville, KY, but later in the evening he collapsed. His wife was an RN and managed to get him to the hospital.
  By the time they arrived all of the major systems of his body were shutting down, thankfully the emergency room physician noticed the bite marks on his forehead and on his scalp. With antibiotics and other measures she saved his life and reversed the process. He was months healing and had to under go major rehabilitation to learn to walk, use his arms, and regain his speech.
   His wife told me the doctor counted eighteen bites after his head was shaved. They were very grateful the bites were from very young spiders whose venom capacity was not fully developed.
   Check around your home, use a flashlight to investigate dry dark places, remove bed skirts and move the bed out from the wall so you can vacuum behind it frequently. One measure of checking for a spider infestation in your home is to put sticky tape along baseboards to see what you can collect before you call an extermination company.
   The illustration is from Google Images.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Bug Bites - TICKS

Larva, nymph, and adult ticks
  It stings, it itches, and it's ugly. Of all the summer pests Ticks are the most harmful. There are about 40 species of ticks in the United States. The most common east to the Mississippi River are the deer tick and the American dog tick.
   They have eight legs, which makes them kin to spiders and they reproduce by the thousands. The larva stage is tiny, not much bigger than the head of a pin, but easily recognizable if you can see them.
  Scientific thought maintains that they acquire the bacteria that produces the most well know diseases while they are in the larva stage of growth when they feed on an animal that has been previously infected. They then carry and can transmit the disease to another host for their entire life span, which an be up to three years.
   Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, and Tularemia (also called rabbit fever) are famous names for diseases that affect humans resulting in sores, rashes, fevers, debilitation, fatigue, and can eventually cause death. Bacteria change and mutate so new infections are added periodically to the list of known diseases carried by ticks.
    We see them frequently in their nymph stage when they are about three-eights of an inch in length.
   It's tempting to run bare footed across a freshly mowed lawn -- don't. The best defense is to avoid them. Below are a few precautions if you are outdoors in an area where ticks are prevalent.
    Avoid open strap shoes like flip-flops. Wear long pants tucked inside socks and heavy shoes or boots when working in the yard, garden, or walking in high grass or a wooded area.
   When you get in the house change clothes down to your bare skin, then dump the garments in the washer with a drop of bleach. I wear a broad brimmed straw hat that is sprayed with OFF and spray my clothes before working in the garden.
   Have someone check where you can't see. This may seem like a bother for only a few moments outside, but it protects you and may save your life.
   Unlike mosquitoes which bite almost as soon as they lite on your skin, ticks crawl around until they find a suitable place to feed. When they've found a feasting spot they produce a 'cement' that secures them in place before they start feeding. Good sites for a tick dinner are warm, dark, and damp.
   Check your pets before they come in the house. Our dogs have been treated with products from the vet and wear flea & tick collars that are changed frequently, yet during the past two weeks we've found live ticks on them that have resisted all of our efforts.
   With all of your precautions sooner or later you may find yourself as a host to a tick. I had one in the center of my back - almost impossible to reach. Nash used his method of fingernail removal. It has taken over 10 days to heal and stop itching. He removed the body of the tick, but broke off the feeding tube in my skin. This is a personal example of why this method is not the best one to follow.
   The standard removal system is to grasp the mouth of the tick with fine pointed tweezers and pull backwards. Our aging eyesight, even with a magnifying glass, doesn't work well with this system.
   Home solutions are to soak a cotton ball with either alcohol or dish-washing detergent and hold it against the tick for a minute or more. Either substance paralyzes them and then they can be lifted off with the tweezers. Clean the entry spot with a topical antibiotic or alcohol at intervals for several days.
   When camping stock you first-aid kits with the little alcohol swab pads or stick some in a pockets when you go walking or running. They come in handy for many things.
   Most of all enjoy your summer, but beware of the dangers that lurk in the grass, weeds, and woods.

   We want to thank Google Images for the illustration. I played with it in Photoshop to get it as near as possible to life-size.