By Gabrielle Tharp, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow
With summer in full swing, we’re more exposed to outdoor hazards, such as insects and snakes. As an outdoor worker, it is important you know the kinds of pests you may encounter during the workday. Below are tips for identifying these critters and keeping yourself safe.
Mosquitoes and Ticks
Mosquitoes are a concern because of infectious diseases they may carry. In Ohio, four mosquito-borne diseases are common, including:
- Eastern equine encephalitis virus.
- La Crosse virus.
- Louis encephalitis virus.
- West Nile virus.
You can reduce mosquito populations at your worksite by eliminating all sources of standing water (e.g., tires, buckets, etc.). Clear debris and fill in ruts that could be collecting water.
Tick-borne diseases are a growing concern in Ohio. Species of ticks to watch out for include the Black Legged “Deer” Tick, the American Dog Tick, and the Lone Star Tick. To prevent tick bites, apply a tick repellent that is at least 25% DEET (diethyltoluamide) or use Permethrin to treat your clothing. Check out our previous blog post for more info about ticks.
To fight mosquito and tick bites, wear clothing that covers exposed skin to protect your hands, arms, legs, and neck. To prevent mosquito bites, use insect repellents with an EPA-registered active ingredient such as DEET. If also applying sunscreen, make sure to apply it before the insect repellent.
Bees and Wasps
To prevent bee and wasp stings, wear light-colored clothing, avoid perfumes, and avoid bananas and banana-scented toiletries. Wear clean clothes and bathe daily because sweat may incite some bees. Remain calm and do not swat at the bee or wasp.
If you are stung, wash the site with soap and water. Remove the stinger using gauze to wipe over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area. Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers. Apply ice to reduce swelling and do not scratch the site of the sting. Those with extreme allergies to bee stings should carry an epinephrine pen with them to combat the reaction.
There are two species of spiders in Ohio that are dangers to humans: The Black Widow and the Brown Recluse Spider.
The Black Widow is normally shiny black with a red hourglass marking on the underside of the abdomen. Its venom produces pain at the bite area which may spread to the chest, abdomen, or the entire body. The Recluse Spider is brown with a recognizable dark violin-shaped marking on its head. The venom from the Recluse Spider can cause a severe skin lesion by destroying skin tissue.
In Ohio there are three venomous snakes: The Timber Rattlesnake, Massasauga Rattlesnake, and the Eastern Copperhead snake. There are many more non-venomous than venomous snakes in Ohio.
Non-venomous snakes normally have an oval head, round pupils, and only nostrils present. Venomous snakes have distinctly triangular heads, elliptical pupils, and extra heat-sensing pits between their eyes and nostrils. Their tails end in a rattle except for the Eastern Copperhead.
Venomous snake bites result in immediate swelling, discoloration, and pain. Extreme symptoms that later develop can include slurred speech, convulsions, paralysis, and loss of consciousness. Transport snakebite victims to a hospital immediately. To prevent snakebites, you should:
- Never try to handle any snake.
- Avoid tall grass areas and piles of leaves.
- Avoid climbing on rock or wood piles.
- Wear boots and long pants, and leather gloves when handling brush and debris.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a Reptiles of Ohio Field Guide to help you identify the wide variety of snakes in our state.
Benefits of snakes and spiders
Although our first instinct is to step on or smash a spider, you may want to think twice. Spiders regularly capture and help control nuisance pests and even disease-carrying insects, like mosquitoes. Snakes can keep pests (e.g., rats and mice) in check. Non-venomous snakes often prey on poisonous snakes, which can lower our chances of encountering a more dangerous snake.