Monday, July 17, 2006

American perils

Australians grow used to it - the constant association of our country with dangerous creatures. Whenever we travel we are asked, with varying degrees of incredulity, how on earth we manage to live with our lethal wildlife. Well, it does not worry us too much. It is really not so bad. Its reputation is worse than its reality.
Unlike the USA.
Nobody ever goes on about how dangerous things are in the US in terms of wildlife. Well, we hear the odd story of bears or rattlesnakes. But America has established itself as a highly urbanised nation in which the main perils are fellow man.
I won't argue the fellow man thing - but I think it is time we stopped letting the Americans cringe and carry on about our dangerous creatures by reminding them of the beasties which lurk all around them all the time.
Now, we've seen hornets in the cartoons and movies. They are wasps. But not the only wasps to be found here. Since I have been here in north Georgia, I've heard assorted tales of people being stung by wasps and hornets. One of my in-law family arrived zonked on antihistamines after disturbing a hornet nest under his toolbox. He had suffered at least 12 stings - having to run from a chase of the swarming furies. Then there was the gardener. We wondered why a can of WD40 and the garden shears were just lying in a garden bed. The explanation came that he had disturbed some red wasps and, suffering multiple stings, had run off without a backward glance.
Then there are the ticks which inhabit these parts. There are different sorts of ticks which carry different diseases, clever little things. They hang around in some sort of tick torpor until some hapless man or beast stumbles by and then they drop onto them and crawl to a good spot where they can suck the blood until they are fat and full. Beware walking in the woods or in the long grass.
Then there are the chiggers or red bugs. They lurk in the grass, too. Do not kneel or lie on the lawn. Do not walk in the wild grass. These tiny things embed themselves in your skin where they feed and live until they die - leaving you with huge, red, itching welts.
Nasty, nasty, nasty.
Give me a redback spider any day.

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