Buggy Halloween story (Don't read this before dinner!)
Today is Halloween, and I'm thankful that so far no one has scared me with anything having to do with bats. I had enough bat-related experiences this year to ensure I live in fear of them for many years to come. Needless to say, I didn't watch this made-for-TV movie last night.
Anyway, here's a cringe-inducing story in honor of October 31. A Milwaukee woman is trying to donate her skeleton after she dies, for study in the classroom at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. One of the details she needs to work out is how to de-flesh her body. The solution apparently lies in bugs, and primarily, flies. Houseflies, blowflies, flesh flies, cheese flies and coffin flies can de-flesh a body in one week. "And once the corpse becomes too dry for the maggots of these flies to feed from," according to the article, "beetles come in and finish the job."
He signed up to get stung
A gentleman in the Netherlands who is helping test a new drug, that's who. This article chronicles the process involved in testing a medicine to treat Johan Smet's allergy as he, along with other test subjects, is stung in a laboratory setting.
The sensitivity categories for a wasp or yellowjacket sting range from 1 -- instantly lethal -- to 5 -- a mild rash. Smet's risk is significant: At a category 2 on the scale, he will suffer extreme swelling, fever, palpitations and difficulty in breathing when he gets stung. He could also go in to shock.
After the test, Smet was fine. Turns out the testers had given him an old drug, Alutar, and not the new one in trial. It may be years before the new drug they were testing, Purethal, is available -- if at all.
Hurricane mess offers termite heaven
More bad pest-related news in the areas hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. There's a "super termite" that is prevalent in both New Orleans and Lake Charles, Louisiana, and not even a hurricane can wipe it out:
Known as "super termites," the insects can hold their breath for up to 16 hours underwater, they're good at finding tiny air pockets in the soil to breathe once grounds are soaked and they can retreat to aboveground portions of their elaborate nests to wait out a storm.
"We have found dead termites, so it appears many have drowned," said Gregg Henderson, an entomologist and termite guru at Louisiana State University, who dug up previously buried test crates packed with old wood last week in New Orleans to see how the insect's numbers were looking. "But there are also thousands of survivors and they will thrive."
Since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region, Henderson explains, the area has become termite heaven — a virtual termite buffet — packed with moist debris, including soaked homes and downed trees. This material provides the insect with its main food: cellulose.
Floods + heat = flies
As if the residents of coastal Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi didn't have enough to deal with after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the conditions in those areas now are extremely conducive to flies. With the heat and moisture from floodwaters, plus the dead animals and rotting food, flies are breeding quickly.
Here's an article about the health risks those areas are facing now, in large part due to the insects. This page from the Louisiana State University AgCenter web site also describes the insect problems following floods.
We're told that our Disposable Fly Traps have been in use (and filling up fast) by the National Guard downtown and in the area surrounding the University of New Orleans, and we are working on getting more of those traps down to the folks in the Southeast who need them.
EMTs on call stung by yellowjackets
He's glad he was stung
It's not often you'll hear someone utter the words "I'm glad I was stung," but that's what a 54-year-old Hooversville, PA man had to say recently. An emergency room visit following a wasp sting revealed cancerous tumors in his gallbladder and liver that had been previously undetected.
Here's hoping it was caught in time to be curable.