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Scientific name: Anthophyta: Dicotyledonae: Sapindales: Anacardiaceae:
Common Name: Information Sheet, Field Safety
Photographer: E. M. Barrows
Identifier: J. Swearingen
Information Sheet, Field Safety
The images show a Poison Ivy rash.
The Glory of Field Trips and Field Work
Nature is wondrous, and its a treat to be outdoors enjoying and studying nature. What an experience to be in a park on a pleasant day with birds singing, butterflies flying, and flowers blooming! Nonetheless, there are health threats that can arise from being outdoors. We should all take the correct precautions when we are “out in the field.” I enjoy nature much more when I am wearing the proper clothing than when I am wearing the wrong clothes for a field site.
I`m a field biologist who has hiked in many areas. If I were going to be in an place with Poison Ivy, poisonous snakes, stinging and biting arthropods, stinging plants, or a combination of these organisms, I would wear a hat, long pants, a long shirt, and insect repellent. Further, I would tuck my pant legs into my socks if I were in tick country to stop ticks from crawling up my legs. However, I would not tuck my pant legs into my socks unless my socks were heavy ones if I were in going to walk through Poison Ivy. I tucked my pant legs into regular socks, walked through Poison Ivy, and developed a strong Poison Ivy rash on my ankles one summer. Long pants and a shirt can feel too hot on a warm day, but they can certainly be worth it. If one drinks enough water and goes into the shade periodically, these clothes feel less hot. When I get highly interested in my field work, I tend to ignore being too hot, anyway.
Stinging and Biting Arthopods
These arthropods are beneficial animals in that they function in food webs and the general balance of nature. Unfortunately, they can harm Humans, and give a bad name to arthropods as a group. In the WDC Area (defined as within 20 miles of the Capitol), the main stinging insects are some species of bees and some species of wasps and the Gypsy Moth (caterpillars), Saddleback Moth (caterpillars), and Puss Moth (caterpillars). The bees that are more likely to sting one are Bumble Bees and Honey Bees. The wasps that are more likely to sting one are the European Hornet, Paper Wasps, and Yellowjackets (including the Bald-faced Hornet). These bees and wasps are unlikely to sting a person unless someone threatens their nests. The arthropods that are likely to bite are flies (deer flies, horse flies, mosquitoes, and a species of muscoid fly). I dont recall being bitten by a spider in the WDC Area. Some people claim that Brown Recluse Spiders are in the Area. Brown Recluse Spiders make festering wounds that take a long time to heal. I developed one of these wounds when I lived in Kansas. I have never seen a Brown Recluse Spider in the WDC Area. I have certainly had more than my share of fly bites. The fly that bites me the most is the Asian Tiger Mosquito (described more in another information sheet on this Website). Since this terrible pest came to the WDC Area, it has bitten me thousands of times. It can transmit the West Nile Virus.
Poison Ivy is a beneficial native plant, used by many kinds of other organisms. I have seen some bad cases of Poison Ivy, and had some moderate cases myself, as well as a case of Poison Sumac. In one case a 10-year-old boy very pink and swollen. He climbed a fence covered with Poison Ivy and developed a major rash and general illness and had to get help from a physician. Many people just dont recognize Poison Ivy or recognize it very well. In the WDC Area, this plant has several forms. It can trail on the ground, grow upright to about 3 feet, and grow up trees and form large heavy branches that superficially resemble tree branches. Poison Ivy leaves usually have three leaflets and are dark green, slightly through very shiny. However, Poison Ivy leaves are pinkish-green when they are expanding, especially in the spring. In the fall, Poison Ivy leaves turn bright yellow or bright red. If you think that you contacted Poison Ivy and you are susceptible to it, wash your exposed parts with warm soapy water very well, as soon as you can after exposure. Brown laundry soap works really well for me.
Snakes are beneficial animals in that they function in food webs and the “balance of nature.” I had a snake collection as a youth; but as neat as they are, snakes are not my favorite animals. Like all creatures, they deserve respect and places to live. To my knowledge, the only Poisonous Snake in the WDC Area (defined as within 20 miles of the Capitol), is the Northern Copperhead. You should obtain an excellent snake book (such as the Audubon Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians) with photographs and become familiar with local snakes. You should not kill snakes because they are so valuable to natural environment. Its best to stay away from poisonous snakes, and have an animal control officer remove a poisonous snake if it is absolutely necessary.
Keywords: bee, mosquito, Poison Ivy, snake, and yellowjacket on this Website.
E. M. B. (2003 08 06, updated 2006 08 30)