Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bees STING. Well, okay, they bite too. But that ain't the business end. Nope.

Livey has a funny post up about a bee issue.

They keep on - she says - BITING her.

OW! you just hit one of k's Pet Peeves.


The business end matters. It matters a lot because knowing which is which aids in your self-defense once attacked, and in your pre-attack self-protection.

The business end is either the bite or the sting. The bite is from the mouth. The sting is from the abdomen - generally referred to as *The [Critter's] Butt.*

Let's talk Bite vs. Butt.

The business end is *The Butt* on bees. The ones that sting are all female, and the venom's in the stinger. Same with ants and wasps - again, all female - and with scorpions. Stingrays too. All *Butt.* All stinger venom.

Some of them will grab you with their jaws (or a scorpion's claws) in order to get a good purchase. IOW, they hold on tight with their jaws while getting the business end in position to inject poison through the stinger. The stinger works a bit like a little hypodermic.

But that ain't nothing, that jaw grab. A tiny pinch, really. Not a *Bite.* It's the sting that hurts like a sonofabitch, because of the venom. And it can kill you sometimes, almost always from an allergic reaction. Almost no stingers have venom potent enough to kill you outright, otherwise.

Exceptions: Some rays, some scorpions (only one species in the US), and the very rare case of getting trapped somehow, or being dead drunk, and getting literally stung to death by thousands of critters, usually either fire ants or yellow jackets (a small but very nasty type of hornet).

The business end is *The Bite* on things like poisonous snakes, spiders, and lizards like Gila monsters and some iguanas and monitors. Those lizards are now known to be venomous - not poisonous due to massive nasty bacteria as once thought. Oddities like jellyfish, electric eels, bufo marinas (cane toad), etc. aren't *Bite* OR *Butt* - but I'll leave that exotica out for now.

Venom, in spiders, is universal. It's how they eat. However, almost NO spiders have venom that actually affects humans. It's almost always just meant to do things to their insect prey.

In Wisconsin, where Livey is? Poisonous spiders are very, very rare. The only ones you might ever see are northern black widow or brown recluse. Both venoms are nasty and can be lethal. Down here in SoFL, we have southern black widows, northern black widows, brown widows, and red widows.

Brown recluse is not indigenous here, but so many of them are *tourist spiders,* arriving in plant pots shipped from recluse areas, or in people's luggage as they travel here, that we actually get a fair amount of damage from them biting people. This is denied and poo-poo'ed by certain ignorant doctors, who didn't read up enough to know that in many cases the spider was caught, brought to the hospital, and correctly identified as a brown recluse.

I was (most likely but not for absolute sure) privileged to experience this myself last summer. You can't test for brown recluse bite, so the only way to REALLY know is if you catch the spider that bit ya. I didn't. However, the wound made a very characteristic *red, white, and blue sign,* or *bullseye,* in appearance; my symptoms were classic (but systemic, not necrotic); and I was in Tourist Brown Recluse territory during the time they go out hunting for food: in a plant nursery, one that had a large interstate/import business, in the middle of the night. (My bad. I was committing a crime, trespassing into a nursery that was sold to developers, rescuing a few abandoned plants before the bulldozers showed up. And I'd do it all over again. We had a BLAST!, and rescued some great plants that didn't deserve to die. Not to mention, lots of empty pots to put them in. And trays and stakes and labels and orchid hooks and...)

I noticed another blogger almost lost a family member to a recluse bite recently, too, though I'm afraid I can't remember who.

Snakes are rarely lethal either. Here we have Eastern Diamondback rattlers, dusky pygmy rattlers, water moccasins (cottonmouths) and coral snakes. In N. Florida they have copperheads and timber rattlers too. Wisconsin has a few timber rattlers and the small, very beautiful, very rare, massasauga rattler. Neither have any known territory anywhere near Livey's house.

I'll note this too: In the US, bee and wasp stings and lightning strikes, put together, kill far more people every year than snakebites.

Which leads me to that admonition you ALWAYS hear from folks like me: *Leave It Alone.* With almost no exceptions, if you don't bother IT, it won't bother you.

Case in point: We may have had the first coral snake bite fatality in Florida in 40 years - ever since antivenin became available. This was in June, out by Naples, FL. What happened? In the small town of Bonita, a bunch of homeless people live out in the woods by a river, some for many years. One evening, after some drinks, a few guys spied a coral snake. It bit one guy. Another guy went after said snake. It bit him. This pissed said guy off and he started playing *quien es mas macho* with the snake - slashing it with a BROKEN BEER BOTTLE.

Yes. Dumb. Naturally he got bit some more as he slashed away. And being sussed, after he killed the snake, he kept talking to his buddies and then went to sleep - and to die. The first guy who got bit, meanwhile, took the dead snake and went on his bike to the fire/rescue station a mile down the road. He, quite properly, went to the hospital with his dead snake, and survived.

My next point follows. I've seen ever so many rednecks in the 'sphere talking about how they always kill snakes on sight because they are so terrified of them. I mean, uh, because snakes just give them the creeps and that's all there is to it. AND, uh, they are Protecting The Children. Like any good Macho Redneck would!

Well, guys, sorry. I have zero respect for that. Zero. For one thing, no matter how yellow-belly chicken you are, you should not go around killing things on sight. It's just wrong, eight ways from Sunday. Killing snakes, for example, means you're killing beneficial predators that eat rats and mice and lots of other things that can present health dangers to you.

For another, your own actions make you some of the few people who SHOULD be afraid. Why? Because messing with a poisonous snake is a common way people get close enough to the snake to get bit in the first place! That's not the snake's fault any more. It's YOU that got you bit. Own up and take responsibility.

In other words, killing snakes on sight is just out-and-out DUMB. Dumb, I don't respect.

Critters - on the other hand - I do.

Critters are ALWAYS cool.

THERE! Now wasn't that fun?

Livey? the way: Sorry about your bee sting. Really. That's just no fun at all.


Granny J said...

As a kid, I always worried about being stung by a bee. One time, under a tree that dropped a lot of blossoms, I sat down & felt a little sting. I mentioned this to an aunt & she said that this was probably a bee. At which point, I came close to hysterics. Another time I was playing dress up and a wasp got up my long skirt. That was NO FUN!

As for yellow jackets -- they often show up at our picnics. We usually put out a small piece of the chicken or ham & watch them cut off small pieces, fly off with them -- and tell the rest of the boys (or girls), "Hey, it's free goodies!!" then they all show up, each cutting off his little piece to carry off somewhere.

k said...

Oh, that dreadful *stuck wasp* thing! I run across an awful lot of stories where someone on a motorcycle gets one stuck in their helmet - or, worse yet, their EAR - as they're driving along on their bike. They often can't get the wasp out until they get to the ER, where some kind medico gets the tweezers and pulls the wasp out of the ear - where it's been stinging the poor patient, over and over and over again, the entire time.

Yellow jackets are pretty amazing. But! they're also one of the very few critter's I'll kill any chance I get. That's because they really, really hate me, and have repeatedly stung ME over and over without provocation. How often does any animal do that?!?

I love to watch them at work, though. And I've noticed many times that the Western Yellow Jacket is not nearly as aggressive as the Eastern variety. I've been in close association with Westerns in Oregon and Washington State, where they've never ever attacked me the way the Easterns have.

pepektheassassin said...

k, come by and see my new grandson!

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