The Southern Home Bestuary: Living with our critter friends and enimies.

The Mystery of the Black Dots
September 24, 2009, 7:33 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Small flesh-eating beetles        Harmless          These too will pass  

 As a child I slept with my toys and pets, as a man I slept with my wife now, as an aging widower, I prefer to sleep alone. In recent weeks I found that I had new bed partners in the way of black elongate dots that appeared to be fecal pellets from something being dropped from my fiberboard false ceiling.


Flesh-eating beetles on a marble top - about one per square inch.

Flesh-eating beetles on a marble top - about one per square inch.

 Closer inspection with a 10-power hand lense revealed that these were actually small brown beetles. A call to Clemson University’s  “Bug Guys” elicited the opinion that these were likely members of a large group of undistinguished small beetles that were food specific. Among these were cigarette beetles, those that fed on fur and others that were carrion feeders. They postulated that I had a dried dead rat somewhere, and the insects were feeding and raising their young on it.

  As readers of previous posts will recall, I did have a problem with wood rats; and one had apparently died in the walls of the house or in the false ceiling. I had the ceiling panels taken down and that area cleaned. No rat was found. I used another “bug bomb,” and hoped for the best.

 No luck. I have still have them, but in fewer numbers. Ultimately they will exhaust their food supply and, having accomplished their biological function, will die out.  As they eat only dead flesh, I have no fear of being eaten alive in my bed, although this would make an interesting plot for a short story.

  The moral here is to always make your bed. You never know what may crawl, or fly, between the sheets with you.

Ticks, common, sometimes deadly, parasites
September 6, 2009, 9:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ticks & Fleas   Obnoxious, sometimes deadly     Repell       Exclude      Remove

  Blood-sucking parasites are not among most people’s favorite creatures. Ticks are considered frequently considered so disgusting that they are not

A few of thousands of ticks on an African Cape Buffalo.

A few of thousands of ticks on an African Cape Buffalo.

 mentioned in “polite society,” as if ignoring them would make them go away. This is unfortunately not so.

 The Southern woods are filled with ticks and every woodland animal will host them. Some ticks are specific to a group of animals, but some species will try us out too. This is where the problem lies because viruses carried on the tick’s mouth parts can infect us. The “star” tick, for example, is the vector for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. and deer ticks carry Lyme Disease.

  Sometimes dangerous bites can be administered by tiny “seed” ticks that are about the size of a grain of sand. Once, on an African hunt, I was covered by hundreds of them. In Georgia a friend, who was a surveyor, died as a result of massive number of bites. I know of others who have had long debilitating diseases of the muscular and nervous systems from tick bites.

 I have had African Tick Fever which was promptly treated with a powerful antibiotic. This particular tick nailed me under the watch band. Lyme disease is transferred by deer ticks. As I commonly hunt and skin deer I wear clothing that has ankle ties and frequently wash and inspect myself. Very often I can feel the larger ones crawling on my skin and remove them.

 DEET containing repellents work and are a general preventative. Mechanically removing them from your dogs will also make them more comfortable. I drop the ticks into a rubbing alcohol-water solution. For those on me, I usually use a knife blade and pressing the tick against the blade slowly pull until it releases. I then disinfect the bite site with alcohol. If the bite area does not quickly heal, it is prudent to consult a physician and get started on antibiotics. Most tick diseases are relatively easy to treat at the outset, but may be very difficult to treat once neurological or other symptoms develop.