Be Aware What Lurks Out There

By on June 1, 2017

Landscape & Garden Editor Kevin Johnson Gives Us an Overview of What Critters to Avoid

I once had a bad streak that lasted over a decade. Several years in a row I was stung multiple times by Yellow Jackets, especially while I served as Grounds Supervisor at Young Harris College. I remember the fluke year when my bad luck ended– it didn’t last long however– a wasp got me the next year while I was pressure washing my house.

The goal of this article is to review and consider insects, reptiles and other mammals that pose a threat to humans. Whether we’re working in our gardens or just spending time outside, we need to be circumspect in regards to dangers that lurk outdoors, and sometimes indoors.

I have spent a great deal of time working in the forest treating Hemlock Trees for Woolly Adelgid over the last several years. In that time I’ve encountered poisonous snakes, black bears, feral pigs, coyotes, and a lone Sasquatch. I’m not certain about the Sasquatch– that just may have been a guy who needed to shave and take a shower. I’ve also been bitten multiple times by chiggers, spiders, fire ants and ticks. Thankfully at this point I’ve avoided snake bites. Below is a list of things we all need to be conscious of.

*Poisonous Snakes: There are six poisonous snakes in Georgia. The ones we mainly need to be concerned with are rattlesnakes and copper heads. I’ve only seen one rattlesnake in 25 years of living in North Georgia. However I have encountered several Copperheads. Copper Heads tend to be more nocturnal during the summer when it’s cool enough for them to hunt, so it’s important to be careful at all times.

*Ticks: Many of us worry about our pets and treat them for fleas and ticks. If we spend time outdoors we need to check ourselves as well. While ticks carry a variety of diseases, if you find a tick on yourself, most likely you will be ok, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the bite site and do some research.

*Spiders: There are two varieties of poisonous spiders in Georgia. They are Black Widows and Brown Recluse. The bites of these spiders can cause serious problems. I’ve discovered many a Black Widow lurking in the valve boxes of irrigation systems.

Fire Ants: Fire Ants are now in every county in Georgia. We can generally identify Fire Ants by the large mounds they build. I once ended up in the emergency room after getting bit multiple times. There are some baits and products that work relatively well.

Yellow Jackets, Wasps and Hornets: We’re all familiar with these pesky insects. I encourage folks to keep an eye on their property. You can usually pick up on a steady stream of Yellow Jackets flying in and out of the ground where they typically nest.

Chiggers: The bites of these tiny arachnids can cause severe rashes among other problems. Over the counter repellents will help keep them at bay.

Mosquitoes: We can’t leave out the mosquito. We were in Jamaica a few years ago and met many people suffering from the Chikungunya virus, which is evere and debilitating. Mosquitoes carry a variety of diseases many of which are becoming more prevalent in the U.S.

It’s always wise to take precautions against many of these critters when being outside. And always wear gloves when working in your gardens and flowerbeds. Try your luck with insect repellants; they are at least a deterrent. For heavy work in the woods we wear sometimes snake chaps if we think we might be at risk. Strike boots are another alternative if you have to do work in areas that that could harbor Copperheads.

In general, most of these critters want to see you even less than you want to see them- well except the Yellow Jackets. Make alot of noise so they know you’re coming and they can skeadttle. Doesn’t hurt to do some further research so that you can tell the good guys from the bad. Stay safe out there!

Kevin Johnson is the owner of Green Leaf Lawn and Ornamental, LLC, based in Blue Ridge. For more information about the devastating hemlock woolly adelgid and treatment options, Kevin can be reached toll free at 866. 883. 2420 or by email at Or check out his web site at or visit for more info.