Oh Those Spiders!
Spiders exist on this planet in greater numbers than most people realize. It's estimated that over 50,000 spiders on average live on a single acre of undeveloped land. Fortunately, the vast majority of these spiders are entirely harmless, even if they crawl on you. They either don't have strong enough mouthparts to bite through a person's skin, or their venom isn't strong enough to affect us.
But occasionally a spider bite will cause itching, swelling, pain near the bite, or an actual open wound. Some of these symptoms are due simply to a person's allergic reaction to the foreign proteins in the venom, even if the venom itself is not potent. People vary as to how sensitive they are to spider bites, just like they vary in their reactions to insect bites.
Venom from some spiders is more potent than others. Brown recluse spider bites can develop into a wound that becomes open, festering sore that heals slowly. The good thing is we here in CA. we don't have Brown Recluse spiders. Black widow and brown widow spider bites cause more generalized pain that can last for several days. Their bites should always be treated promptly by a physician. It was thought that hobo spider bites leave an open wound, but now the consensus is that they don't. Yellow sac spiders cause a much more mild reaction. If you are bitten, it's a good idea to capture the spider or insect for identification.
Moisture Sources that Lead to Wood Decay
Moisture in wood results in wood decay, costing homeowners billions of dollars a year to repair. Not only does wood decay strongly attract termites and other wood-destroying pests, which can cause much more damage, but it also reduces the structural integrity of your home.
We have found that often wood decay could have been prevented or repaired at a relatively minor cost if it has been detected early. That's why a small investment in having us do a professional inspection often pays huge dividends.
Here a few of the many ways moisture gets to wood:
*Direct soil contact. Whenever wood touches soil directly it will soak up moisture..
* Wood seepage. Water most easily seeps into the ends of boards and where they are joined together, such as at the edge of a roof, house corners, and especially around door and window frames.
* Plumbing leaks. A common problem that can cause constant wetting and promote wood decay.
* Condensation. This can happen in many places around a home-often around windows and under homes built over crawl space, especially if the ventilation is poor due to an inadequate number of vents. HVAC systems under homes can create moisture from warm exhaust vents hitting cold air.
* Rain Water. Water may get inside a leaky roof or get backed up in clogged rain gutters and flow over onto wood. Water may also splash against the side of a home if there is no splash guard at the downspout, or may seep back under a foundation if it is dumped at the base of a wall.
New Viruses & Super-bugs Found in Mice
Mice live where we live, so it can be easy for whatever germs they carry to be transferred to us. A new, year-long assessment of mice in New York City discovered an amazing six new viruses, as well. as antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The study collected 416 mice in the city over a year period, and then analyzed their droppings for bacteria and viruses. Running genetic tests, the researchers found 149 species of bacteria. Included were the most common causes of gastrointestinal problems: Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli, and C. difficile. Salmonella alone causes 1.2 million reported cases in the US each year, including 450 deaths.
Also alarming was that the genes indicated antimicrobial resistance to several common antibiotics, meaning the mouse droppings contained bacteria that would be difficult to treat with common antibiotics.
There were also 36 different viruses in the droppings, including six new viruses never seen before. Fortunately, none of the known viruses were known to affect humans, but it is not known if the new viruses humans.
Many Mosquito Repellents Are Not Effective
Ever put on a mosquito repellent and then been bitten? A study at New Mexico State University found that most mosquito repelling mosquito repellents being marketed actually do a very poor job of repelling mosquitoes. Of the many spray-on and rub-on products tested, all of them were poor repellents except those that contained DEET or PMD (oil of lemon eucalyptus).
Of the two DEET formulations, a 40% and 98% product, the higher concentration was the most effective product tested. (it usually is both a better repellent, and lasts longer.) The oil of lemon eucalyptus that worked was a 30% concentration. Other botanical and herbal products repelled fewer or no mosquitoes, and tend to be shorter-lived.
In addition, several mosquito bracelets and wrist bands, and a wearable sonic repeller, were all found to be ineffective in repelling mosquitoes. (The sonic repeller uses ultrasonic sound, and sound has never been found to be effective at repelling mosquitoes--it's a waste of your money!)
One wearable device fared well, it was a clip-on that had a nebulizer to vaporize its chemical repellent, Metoflurthrin.
A repellent candle was also found to be ineffective.
If you are outdoors and there are mosquitoes around, please use an effective repellent to protect exposed skin!
Are Gray Squirrels Smarter than Red Squirrels?
A recent study in the United Kingdom found that a greater percentage of wild gray squirrels solved more difficult food-finding tests that red squirrels. The tests involved a process of pushing and pulling levers to get to hazelnuts. The better problem-solving skills of invasive gray squirrels may explain why they have displaced red squirrels, and are now by far the most common squirrel there.
The gray squirrel in the United Kingdom is the same as our Eastern gray squirrel, which the British imported in the 1870's when it was considered fashionable to have them on estates. Since then this squirrel has spread and displaced their native red squirrel (which is a different species of red squirrel than our American red squirrel).
Squirrels are generally considered beneficial in forests, because they bury tree seed to eat later, and then forget where they buried some of them. These seeds sprout and grow into trees. However, gray squirrels are considered pests there because they have taken over much of the territory of their native red squirrels, plus they harm some of the native trees.
This study still doesn't fully explain why gray squirrels are spreading in the United Kingdom. In the tests, some red squirrels solved the task more quickly that gray squirrels, and the successful red squirrels were quicker to change tactics after trying a method that didn't work.