Your backyard should be a safe haven for your family and pets where you can enjoy fun activities such as small outdoor barbecue parties or simple dinner, but all too often, you spend the summer months battling malicious mosquitos, deadly plants, and not to mention, sunburns and sun poisoning. As if that wasn’t enough, there may be larger dangers hiding under your bushes, too. Urban sprawl has eliminated important habitat for larger critters like skunks, possums, and even bears that may decide your oak tree, flower bed, or crawlspace is the next best thing to home.
In fact, your trash may attract wildlife in the first place, but after they recognise that your property is a nice place to hang out in, you could start seeing those creatures a lot more often. Not to mention, these critters can transmit potentially life-threatening diseases, and many of them will attack when frightened or challenged. A few may even view your pets as a potential food source. Animals aren’t the only problem, as everyday activities, such as mowing the lawn, could lead to a potentially-fatal injury, or worse.
These seven death traps may be in, or happen in, your very own backyard.
There are more than 800 species of ticks on the planet, and some of them can carry life-threatening diseases, including Lyme disease and even Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks don’t usually hang out in open, full-sun lawns, but you might find plenty of them on the fringes in more shaded areas.
Ticks are transmitters of diseases to both humans and animals. Ticks can transmit disease to many hosts, and ticks act as transmitters when microbes in their saliva and mouth secretions get into the host’s skin and blood.
To avoid bites from these pesky creatures, always be sure to wear closed-toed shoes whilst doing yard work and spending time outdoors. It’s always helpful to perform a “tick check” when you are about to go back inside, as it may take you days to discover a tick on your body.
2. Lawnmower Incidents
Around 80,000 people are sent to the hospital each year by what many see as a routine activity: mowing the lawn. This usually happens after a stick or a rock ricochets off the spinning blade, flies through the air, and hits us right in the eye.
But other injuries are even more gruesome, including the occasional fractured (or severed) foot. Keep in mind that the majority of lawnmower injuries happen to children younger than 15 and adults over 60.
3. Fire Ants
Fire ants range in colour from red-brown to black, and build nests or mounds about a foot high, usually in grassy areas like lawns and pastures. Unlike most anthills, fire ant nests have no single entrance—rather, the ants crawl all over the hill. Fire ants are very aggressive when their nest is disturbed, and if provoked, they swarm on the perceived intruder, anchor themselves by biting the skin, and then sting repeatedly.
Usually, the painful sting of a fire ant, which feels like a lit match being pressed into your skin, won’t kill you, but every year, there are a number of fatalities resulting from fire-ant stings, due to either an allergic reaction to the ants’ venom or a high number of stings to those whose mobility is limited, such as the elderly or infirm.
4. Deadly Plants, including Water Hemlock
Deemed by the USDA as the most deadly plant in North America, the water hemlock contains a toxin called Cicutoxin, a violent convulsant, which acts as a stimulant in the central nervous system, causing seizures—which include loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions—and eventual death.
Water hemlock is different from poison hemlock (the plant which killed Socrates), in that it contains coniine alkaloids that kill by paralysing a victim’s respiratory system.
5. Venomous Snakes
Each year, approximately 8,000 venomous snakebites occur in the United States, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. And an overgrown lawn provides perfect cover for rattlesnakes and copperheads.
Snakes are classic agoraphobics, with a profound fear of wide-open spaces where they’re easily exposed, so the best way to ensure they stay off your lawn is to keep it well mowed. Snakes also love to hide out in woodpiles and wooded areas, which makes them hard to spot and potentially lethal. Poisonous snakes thrive in a number of areas of the U.S., but the distinctive rattlesnake likes to stay cool in shady areas, like under shrubs, during hot summer afternoons.
Other ways to ward off snakes is to purchase a scarecrow equipped with a motion detector that shoots water at them and other critters when they come onto your lawn.
6. Dog Poop
Hate cleaning up the lawn after your pet? Well, believe it or not, you might be putting your entire family at risk of acquiring intestinal worms. Roundworms are often found in dog feces and can easily migrate into whichever patch of lawn Scout prefers to do his business. The danger kicks in when, say, your son picks up a football that’s come into contact with the infected soil, then touches his mouth with his hands.
The roundworms travel to his intestines, lay their eggs, and spread like wildfire, leading to symptoms ranging from breathing trouble to weight loss and diarrhoea. What’s worse is that roundworms can cause ocular larva migrans, which occur when worm larvae attack the retina, leading to blindness.
7. A Lawn Fire
A well-maintained lawn can provide an excellent barrier between a house and the surrounding woods when it comes to wildfire protection. But a lawn so dry that it’s turning brown can turn into a huge disaster from a tossed off cigarette or a wayward blast of lightning. This is especially true in drought-prone areas.
To avoid starting a fire, do not throw cigarettes on the ground, do not burn leaves or trash outdoors, and be sure to rake leaves and debris, keep your grass cut short, and keep extra caution with loose branches and debris in drier climates.