8/22/2010 5:56 PM
You have probably heard that gardening provides a source of food, beauty, and numerous physical and mental health benefits. But, are you aware of the hidden dangers that lurk in the Florida garden?
1. Dangerous Insects
Did you know that 5 species of venomous spiders occur in Florida? These dangerous spiders are the Southern Black Widow, Northern Black Widow, Red Widow, Brown Widow and Brown Recluse.
Florida is also home to three native scorpions: Bark Scorpion aka the Slender Brown Scorpion (Centruroides gracilis), Hentz Striped Scorpion (C. hentzi) and the Guiana Striped Scorpion (C. guianensis). Scorpion venom is a nerve poison that causes severely painful stings described as much worse than a wasp sting.
Speaking of wasps, there is always the threat of being stung by wasps, hornets and bees (especially the aggressive Africanized Killer Bee) while working in the garden. Biting flies and mosquitoes are also a major concern especially since Florida mosquitoes are known to transmit several diseases such as West Nile Virus, Dog Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis), Dengue Fever, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and St. Louis Encephalitis.
And of course, many people have had occasion to experience first hand the painful attacks of Solenopsis invicta – the Imported Red Fire Ant. With these ants, it is truly a case of “once bitten, twice shy.”
2. Dangerous Animals
As if it was not bad enough that the bugs and insects can ruin a wonderful day in the garden, there are also many dangerous animals there too. The first to inspire fear in many otherwise hearty souls are SNAKES! Of the 50 species of snakes that are found in Florida, 6 are venomous and a danger to humans. Florida pit vipers are one type of snake with haemo-toxic venom that destroys the red blood cells and the walls of the blood vessels of the snake-bite victim killing within hours if not given emergency treatment. Florida snakes with this type of poison are the Diamondback Rattlesnake, Canebrake Rattlesnake, Pigmy Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth (or Water Moccasin), and the Copperhead. The other type of snake is the only Florida native that has neuro-toxic venom which attacks the nervous system of a victim, bringing on paralysis and death -- that snake is the brightly colored Coral Snake.
Of course people living on fresh water canals, ponds and lakes have to be careful of gardening activities near these bodies of water as this is where the dangerous man-eating American Alligator lurks. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission records an average of about seven alligator attacks every year and since the 1970’s, 21 people in Florida have been killed by the huge reptiles (Wikipedia).
3. Dangerous Weather
With Florida’s famous heat and humidity the very real danger of heat-stroke exists just outside the door in the Florida garden. In addition to heatstroke severe sun burn is also possible.
The highest death rates from lightning in the United States are in Florida, which is known as the lightning capital of the country. According to the U.S. National Weather Service, from 1959 to 2003 lightning killed 425 people in the Sunshine State and hundreds more suffered life-debilitating injuries such as memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, numbness, dizziness, and weakness from being struck by lightning.
4. Dangerous Plants
There are many exotic tropical and sub-tropical plants being grown in Florida and many can be poisonous from merely touching them resulting in contact dermatitis or severe and painful rash. Some common rash inducing plants in Florida include Arrowhead (Syngonium podophyllum), Brazilian Pepper, Chinaberry, Common Lantana, Croton, Mango, Oleander, and Yellow Alamanda.
5. Dangerous Power-lines
Every year in Florida you hear about someone being killed when the fruit picker or extension saw they are using on a tree comes in contact with a live power-line. Remember when doing any work on a large tree to look up to see if there are power-lines near the plant. Careful avoidance of power lines is extremely important during yard work, especially when using tools, ladders, poles or pruning saws. Be sure that ladders or scaffolds are far enough away so that you – and the ends of the tools you’re using – don’t come within 10 feet of power lines. You can be seriously hurt or killed if the object you are holding contacts a power line.