Nature's poisons


It's not difficult to understand Mother Nature's giggles at our dismay when we are confronted with nature’s poisons, not to mention her mosquitoes, when we see what we've done to trash our roadsides, streams, and oceans. Yeah, I know that the scorpion dates back 430 million years and there was no styrofoam, glass, or aluminum back then, but …

Scorpions: About 90 species are found in the U.S. All but four of these naturally occur west of the Mississippi and are abundant in semi-arid regions. The highest concentrations are found in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. During my research, I found articles concerning scorpions in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. Who knew?

When I was stationed in San Antonio, we were advised to put our infant's bedposts in quart glass jars to prevent them from climbing up the bedposts into her bed. Scorpions are primarily nocturnal and generally hide during the day.

All known scorpion species possess venom and use it primarily to kill or paralyze their prey so they may feed. It is also used as a defense against predators. Of the 1,000+ known species, only 25 have venom that is deadly to humans. In the U.S., only the Arizona bark scorpion can deliver such fatal stings. Folks will experience pain following a scorpion sting, along with localized swelling. Most of what I read likens it to a bee sting – I can tell you from personal experience, it's much more painful.

Treatment consists of supportive care with an ice pack and OTC meds such as Advil, Aleve, etc. Following a sting by the Arizona bark scorpion, hospitalization and antivenom may be required. Concerning prevention, when you're in the above-mentioned areas, always shake your shoes out before slipping into them. Should you be camping out, place your boots upside-down atop sticks thrust into the ground before retiring.

One more pearl which you will treasure forever. Scorpions glow when exposed to ultraviolet light, such as a blacklight, due to fluorescent chemicals in their exoskeleton. You're welcome.

Puss Moth Caterpillar: The puss moth caterpillar (also known as asps) is one of the most toxic caterpillars in the U.S., and is endemic to the Southern states. The adult form is the Southern flannel moth. The larval form (aka caterpillar) lives in shade trees and shrubbery, peaking in late spring and late fall. They are teardrop shaped and have long silky hair resembling a tuft of cotton or fur. Their color varies from yellow to gray to reddish brown.

When this caterpillar's “rub” comes in contact with our skin, venomous hairs become embedded. Envomation causes intense throbbing, burning pain and a spotted red rash. More susceptible folks may experience swelling, nausea, abdominal pain, headache, shock, and respiratory distress. The wound pain has been described by patients as similar to a broken bone or blunt force trauma, but usually subsides within an hour.

Treatment usually consists of relief of pain only:

l Wash sting with soap and water, then use a hair dryer set on low to dry area

l Put tape on site and pull it off to remove embedded hairs to prevent further injury

l Apply rubbing alcohol to site

l Apply a baking soda slurry

l Apply Calamine lotion

l Place an ice pack over sting

l Oral or injectable pain medication.

I can't resist one more memorable pearl; just unable to. The long, luxuriant “fur” covering the inch-long caterpillar makes it resemble a tiny Persian cat, presumably giving it the name “puss.”         

Bill McKell is a Northsider. His email is


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