Most Harrowing Experience(s) Ever with Organisms

It is something that I hope to never do again. My leg was essentially an open wound for weeks after. Also, where in the world do you find Sosnowsky’s hogweed, I want to know what to look out for if it can be found by me.

It originates in Caucas, but thought to be good to make silage, but in fact it wasn’t, it is invasive now in basically almost anywhere in European Russia along roads or open fields, it is a huge plant up to 4 metres, its juices containe furanocoumarins that react under uv light, you can get bruises for life or even get blind. It’s also one of the worst weeds as it changes fields into plantations of itself, it’s spreading easily with tons of seeds and you can’t get rid of it in one season. There’re other close species like Heracleum mantegazzianum that is up to y metres also originated from Caucasian region and invasive in Europe.


The greatest lessons I learned from organisms came from an almost full day of pain from having come into leg contact with a stinging nettle as well as having many itchy, uncomfortable days with chiggers under my skin. But another rattlesnake story is my lifetime memory of how adrenaline acts under stresses. I was running down a steep trail and saw a coiled (possibly timber) rattlesnake in the middle of the narrow path and I was going too fast to stop. Something propelled me to jump over it, turn backwards to face it while scurrying away.


I am afraid of dogs too. Not intellectually, but physiologically. When I was in grade school, a mean neighbor child of my age used t always sick her dog (named Major) on me and my sister as we walked to school. It was not a nice dog. I have found that dogs often reflect the demeanor of their owners. As I got older, I had other aggressive off leash dogs in natural areas that were very scary, and once I got a flat tire in the middle of the night in an urban area where packs of feral dogs were marauding. Eventually, I made my peace with dogs in my mind, but even now at 63 years old, the hairs raise on the back of my neck any time I encounter a dog…even a small one. Very docile dogs have surprised their owners by growling at me, and even nipping me, when they had never done so to anyone else before. I believe it is my involuntary physiological response that triggers this in most dogs. There are some dogs of friends that could not care less about my reaction and are very friendly. I am much more afraid of a pack of feral dogs than I am of wolves or coyotes, which have a certain amount of wariness of humans that feral dogs do not.


Fortunately, I haven’t had very many negative experiences with animals. The one that springs to mind is not so much ‘harrowing’ as just painful. I did my Master’s degree at Rice University in Houston. In the fall, venomous caterpillars, locally called asps or Puss Moths (Megalopyge opercularis), can be found in the trees on campus, and the clumsy little bugs have an irritating habit of falling onto people below. I had one land on my shirt without me noticing while I was waiting on the shuttlebus on the way home. It crawled around rubbing against my face until I got home and started to notice the itch (I had a beard at the time, so I could not feel it moving). I caught sight of it in the mirror and had the sense to remove it with a tissue rather than my bare hands (though I didn’t know what it was at the time). Unfortunately, it had plenty of time to leave its little spines all over my neck and the side of my face. The itching turned to burning, then a throbbing pain that radiated all the way up my arm. It was so bad I missed school the next day. Had to shave my beard and try to remove the spines with duct tape. Never thought I’d have a reason to hate a caterpillar.


Fortunately I didn’t have many dangerous encounters with wildlife at all. I have only been “almost in danger”, the closest of which was when I was approaching what I thought was an empty hornet’s nest ( I have also been attacked and chased by two stray dogs as well.


Not directly an organism experience, nor dangerous, but when I was working at Agriculture Canada, there was a research project designed to measure flea beetle populations at field corners, then across the fields. The ‘sampler’ was essentially a gasoline lawn mower engine with a huge hose (6" across) with a nozzle to suck up flea beetles from an area. There were two of us, and we each strapped this engine on our backs, picked up the nozzle and hose, sampled around a corner, then set off through chest high canola in 25C temperatures, sampling at set points. It was noisy, hot, smelly and difficult (Each diagonal cross was at least 800m long). After about a week of this the researcher came out to check on things, and to his credit, when he saw what we had to go through, he stopped the project.


I had a couple of similar poison oak experiences as a child, in part because of the mistaken advice we were given to always take a cold bath after hiking. I got head-to-toe rashes from that advice. The oily poison oak urushiol washes off the body and floats on the surface of the water. Then, when one rises from the bath, a fine coating of urushiol floats over the entire body. Two weeks of horrible itchy rashes! The only medicine we used then was calamine lotion and such, which was not super effective. Eventually, I developed a resistance, almost immunity, to urushiol.

I tell children on hikes if you get in poison oak wash it off in running water - a shower, a creek, or a hose. But, just NOT a bath.

And, Eric, your description of the maddening itch is very apt. Days of not sleeping will do that to you.


There are over 10,000 ant species in the world, and they have a wide range of mound sizes, behaviors, and stingers (or lack thereof) The thing that is weird to me is that they would swarm you if they weren’t a stinging or biting type, I’m wondering if they were just unable to bite or sting because of your cloths

Some fire ants can be small and dark colored

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Turns out mating Honey Badgers don’t like being filmed:


I really thought I was going to be knee-capped!


I used to be very paranoid about bears myself, though not without reason. We live at the foot of a mountain, and see bears in our yard on a regular basis. My siblings and I learned to run inside whenever we heard a loud noise outside, in case it was a bear. We even had to have a bear trap in our yard because one kept raiding our trash cans. It was a 6 foot long green cylinder with a trap door and baited with donuts. We were actually playing outside just at sunset when the bear was caught; we heard the door slam and ran inside. We could see the trap shaking from the window of our house. Later at night when my dad came home, he took us out with a flashligh5 to see the bear(which had calmed down) through the grate of the trap. I was about 2 feet away from it, the closest I’ve ever come to a bear.
Years later, I nearly ran into a bear on my bike, I ran into my house from the car in the dark carrying a pizza box with a bear on the other side of the house from me, and just this summer I walked out to the car before dawn with my sister to go to work and heard a bear at our trash about 30 feet away (we jumped in the car and still made it to work on time).
I have about a dozen more bear stories, but as I got older I became less paranoid about bears. It helped that I spent enough time bird watching to learn the difference between the sound of a deer or squirrel in the woods versus a bear. So I sympathize with your fear of bears.


Ha! I had no idea Valentine’s Day was a thing in the animal world…