Yuma Ag and You: Spring crops and critters

Bobbi Stevenson-McDermott         May 8, 2016 publication

Other than the wind, this spring is very enjoyable. No crazy high temperatures or humidity and you can still sleep with the doors open! The wheat that was planted during December is headed out and beginning to mature for harvest in early June. Other fields will take somewhat longer, but will ripen in June. Melon vines are looking healthy and the seed crops, broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke, and onion heads are being cut and laid on plastic sheeting to dry. The seed heads are harvested before they are totally dry because the seed is very light and if the heads dry completely, much of the crop is lost in harvest. After drying, the seed heads are combined from the plastic sheets, with looses seed falling on the plastic to be collected after combining. Vegetable seed crops are not known for producing bountiful seed crops so every seed is important. The deep green Sudan grass is almost ready for the first harvest. Sudan is a forage crop used in animal feeding operations and shipped overseas to countries that do not have the land to grow forage crops.  Cotton stands across the valleys look healthy as do the alfalfa fields.

Spring also brings activity for many creepy critters that have been inactive during the cooler months. I came across an article in the Arizona Republic which contains great information on the 12 dangerous critters that live in Arizona.

Many of the following creatures do not live close to Yuma, but summer is the time for travel to the high country and many live there.

The Gila monster is the only venomous lizard native to the United States. A nocturnal creature, the Gila monster attacks humans only in defense and is a protected species in Arizona.

Thirteen species of rattlesnakes live in Arizona, more than any other state, according to the AZ Game and Fish. If you hear the warning rattle, it is just that-the snake is telling you not to come any closer. Stay calm and give it wide berth. Move away from the rattler with slow, non-threatening, non-sudden movements.

The highly aggressive Africanized bee population has risen by at least 1,000 percent in Arizona this year. Know as the ‘killer’ bee, this hybrid species is known to defend its hive relentlessly when disturbed, viciously attacking anything or anyone in their path.

The bark scorpion is the most common type of scorpion in Arizona and can cause severe medical problems. All other scorpions pose a much smaller threat to humans.

Coral snakes have a blunt black snout and bands of red, yellow (sometimes white), and black that completely encircle the body, and the yellow and red bands touch. A coral snake’s venom is two or three times more potent than most rattlesnakes, but their fangs are smaller and they inject less venom.

A tarantula can use its fangs to inflict a bite, or it can use its barbed and mildly venomous abdominal hairs. It appears that tarantulas cause no long term damage in most cases.

The bite from a centipede, while very painful, generally does not require medical attention.

There are about 5 species of brown spiders in Arizona. Their venom usually causes aches and swelling, but it can result in a necrotic ulcer.

The female black widow spider is considered the most venomous in North America according to DesertUSA.com. The venom of the black widow spider is 15 times as toxic as the venom of the prairie rattlesnake.

The Sonoran Desert toads are poisonous, not venomous (poison is ingested, venom is injected). These toads have glands that produce a poison that can kill an adult dog.

The Blister Beetle excretes an irritant from its joints when it is trapped. This irritant causes blistering much like poison ivy, according to the U of A College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The conenose bug typically bites people while they are asleep so it takes several hours to know you have been bitten. The bite usually causes swelling, but repeated exposure has been known to cause allergies that may require hospitalization.

We in Yuma, as we get ready for summer, start to move pool floats, gardening equipment, camping equipment and all sorts of other stored stuff that we will use during the hot months. It is wise to wear gloves and be observant as you move the materials as you may have an unexpected guest of the reptile, insect, or spider family who over-wintered with you. Moving the woodpile in the mountains, cleaning up leaf litter for fire prevention and enjoying the higher elevations can bring desert dwellers unexpected surprises.