Have you ever been bitten by an insect? How about a snake? Or a frog? Or a snail? I’ll take a fire ant bite over the bites of some of the animals in this article any day.
I would bet that most of you have endured the after effects of a mosquito bite – the itchiness, the redness, the swelling, but rarely does anyone die from it. There are nasty diseases that a mosquito can carry – i.e., Malaria and the Zika virus – but the everyday, backyard variety generally just delivers an annoying couple of days of discomfort. We can’t tell the difference by just looking at them as they dive at us, so we use insect repellent to ward them off. There are couple of great products that golfers use to keep pesky gnats, horse flies, and skeeters away, but, there is no magic spray that works to chase away the deadliest animals that co-exist with us on the planet. We have to rely on treatment after the fact, or the best idea of all: avoidance.
Here are ten of the worst:
Some animals have developed neurotoxins to dispatch their victims. The worst spider in the world is found in Australia – just in Sydney, to be exact. The Sydney Funnel Web Spider can kill a human or a monkey within 15 minutes. Apparently, no other animal is susceptible to the poison. There is an anti-venom, but you’d have to be really close to the hospital to get treated in time.
The South African Spitting Scorpion uses three neurotoxins to protect itself – one to stun, one to paralyze and one to kill. It spits the lightest dose when chasing the victim away, but it only needs a billionth of a gram of the deadly dose to kill a small animal. Death is not pleasant, with tremors and convulsions that go on even after death.
The Lonomia Caterpillar is responsible for over 500 deaths in the past twenty years and kills by causing hemorrhaging near the site of the bite. The victim’s blood no longer clots and this condition spreads as the body tries to cope. Scientists don’t yet know the composition of all the toxins involved.
Unlike other poisonous animals, the Poison Dart Frog creates its toxin from its diet. Scientists have discovered that in captivity, the frog is rendered harmless by changing its diet. That means that even if the frogs in my photo above had escaped, they would have hopped around, doing no damage to me at all if they had touched me. Good thing, because one little wild frog from Central or South America has enough toxin to kill about ten fully adult humans. Hop, hop, hopping about, enticing us to touch its pretty skin, doing its worst by causing heart attacks.
The famed Puffer Fish carries a neurotoxin that is 100 times deadlier than potassium cyanide. What may not as widely known is that same toxin can zap you if you touch certain varieties of sea snails as well as the blue ringed octopus, a small but nasty bit of sea life. Contact with one of these unfriendly sorts can cause blindness, paralysis, and/or death. And while the Marbled Cone Snail may be gorgeous to look at, there is no known antidote for a strong enough dose of its venom. I’ve never been a strong ocean swimmer, but when I stick my toe in a wave at the shore, I expect to be alive afterward, pretty sea snails or not. Maybe I’ll forgo the next snorkeling trip. 😉
The Inland Taipan is among the deadliest snakes on Earth. Anybody that gets bitten by one of these can die within 45 minutes. It’s an Australian snake and there is anti-venom for the bite, but I wouldn’t want to count on getting back to civilization in time to get the treatment. If I was a snake handler Down Under or if I lived in the Outback, I’d think seriously about keeping a vial of the remedy on hand.
The King Cobra can strike fear into the heart of anyone that gets within spitting distance. Just a 1/4 ounce of its venom (about 7 ml) can kill a full grown elephant within minutes. To put that into perspective – about twenty grown men could die from that same 1/4 ounce dose. The good news is that unless you’re traveling to India or China, or the local zoo lets one escape, you’re safe.
Several varieties of Jellyfish can deliver stings that cause a great deal of pain and sometimes death. They are physically brainless, but their make-up is all about survival. Tentacles can be anywhere from less than an inch (the translucent Irukandji) up to ten feet long (the Portuguese Man O War). They are found in oceans all over the world, can be almost invisible or quite colorful (the Sea Nettle found near the Chesapeake Bay in the USA). My advice? If you see one, swim away as fast as you can.
If you’re using the information in a book you’re writing, choose your poison source carefully. Somebody has to gather that poison before it can be injected or mixed with food. Will it be the villain or someone she/he hires? There are medical uses for some of the neurotoxins – those can be purchased legally with the proper credentials. On the other hand, snake venom is not easy to collect, and somebody might actually have to catch the snake first. Snake bags anyone?
Do you have a favorite villain in literature that has used a rare animal-based poison to do his/her evil work? Please share in the comments below. 🙂
Poison Dart Frog & Jellyfish – Patti Phillips
Puffer Fish – ListVerse
It’s been raining a lot, and it’s cold outside now, so golf has been taken off the schedule until the spring. What do wanna-be golfers do when the weather sidelines them?
We watch movies of golfers making a hole-in-one and winning a million dollars, we watch the Golf Channel for instruction, we dream of sunny states and countries where a guy/gal could golf year round, we watch funny videos of golf flubs, and trade whopper stories with our golfing buddies.
And then there are the golf tournaments televised on sports channels. If ya can’t be there, ya might as well watch. And drool because of the perfect putts and perfect swings and the top notch equipment. And laugh out loud at some of the odd critters that crawl onto the golf course while thousands of people are standing within just a few feet.
Among other LOL moments that stop a golfer from taking a putt, you might see:
Click on the link below to watch this PGA Tour video of the Top 10 Animal Encounters recorded on the tours through the years. No blood, no bodies, just great fun.
My encounter with the snake in the grass seems tame by comparison. 😉
May your fairways be clear and your greens critter free!
*Snake photo taken by Patti Phillips, while standing safely inside the golf cart. Lolol
Planting season started a few weeks ago in this part of the country. The danger of frost has gone, so we’ve been looking at perennials for now and bulbs for later, that will finish the beds underneath some of the trees in the yard. Daffodil bulbs are great because they multiply and spread on their own and they will come back up and bloom for years. And, ya gotta love that great splash of color in the Spring!
BUT, the friendly gal at the garden center saw Hammett and told us that if he chewed the bulbs he would get sick, so we were warned not to leave daffodil bulbs on the ground while waiting to plant them. We bought a few and stored them on a shelf in the garage, waaaay out of a snoofing dog’s reach.
We had dealt with the toxic plants for people last season, but now we had to think about what might be dangerous for Hammett, our lovable Irish Setter. We catsit every once in a while, so they were a potential worry as well.
The garden center gal steered us through the ground covers and shade plants. Caladiums, whether the plain green and white or more colorful varieties, may cause an intense burning in the mouth, as well as vomiting for both cats and dogs.
Pretty, but we crossed them off our list.
We were hopeful about Day Lilies, since Sheila wanted an entire slope in the side yard filled with them. We heard partially good news. Day Lilies, no matter which variety, are non-toxic to dogs, but highly toxic to cats. So toxic to cats, in fact, that they can cause kidney failure. Sheila suggested that we get the Day Lilies and keep the visiting cat in the house or in the fenced-in backyard. Problem solved.
Then I remembered one Easter when we ate dinner at Sheila’s mom’s house. Her cat kept peeing on the Easter Lily we had brought as a present. We were all horrified, finally exiled the cat to the back porch and put the plant outside to ‘air out.’ Turns out the cat was pretty smart. The garden center gal confirmed that Easter Lilies are just as dangerous to cats as the Day Lilies.
We headed toward the flowering perennials, still positive about what we would find.
We wanted something showy, splashy with color, and a natural lure for butterflies. Lantana seemed to fit the bill and we knew that it would not need much water in the heat drenched summers. But they were a big NO for us, since they are toxic to both dogs and cats and can cause vomiting and other nasty things.
We don’t have houseplants as a general rule, because Hammett has a big tail that seems to have a mind of its own. More than one potted flower bit the dust until we decided that Hammett was more important than having the indoor plants. But, a friend of ours does and as we passed the exotic plants section, I saw a Bird of Paradise in full bloom. We had seen one in the Azores growing in front of a school and admired the color. It’s not normally a houseplant, but our friend is able to grow one in her greenhouse-like kitchen area. Her BofP is about four feet tall and spectacular.
But, guess what? It’s mildly toxic to cats and dogs, causing mild nausea and vomiting if they eat the fruit and the seeds.
We have more research to do, but so far zinnias, bachelor’s buttons, and coreopsis are on the ‘okay flower’ list. Zinnias and bachelor’s buttons aren’t perennials, but they will reseed themselves. Works for us and works for Hammett, too!
For more information about plants that can be harmful or harmless to pets, go to
*Photos taken by Patti Phillips