TBTBT - "The Trouble With Venom"

The world is full of natural and man made toxins and poisons to which we normally show almost complete indifference. What else could explain why we are turning this beautiful planet into a cesspool? Well - money and politics PLUS our indifference.

But most people can generate an emotional response to the possibility of getting bit or stung by some poisonous life form! The possibility of immediate severe pain or death from natural sources does cause one to focus. Having worked with all sorts of poisonous fauna and flora for over 30 years I have had many terrific opportunities to experience interesting venoms.

There is a slight distinction between poisonous and venomous. Some amphibians, insects and plants may only require you to rub against them to acquire the toxin - but venom from whatever source is an injected toxin. My experiences with the former has resulted in rashes and sneezing, but my physical reaction to envenomation has often been quite dramatic.

Some of us have been stung by bees or wasps and unless you are allergic to their venom (or attacked by a horde of 'killer bees') it is not a big deal. Less then 60 people a year die from stings of this sort in America. Wasps do not have a barbed stinger, and once I was hit several times by some potent wasps in Honduras before I could even realized the source of my excruciating pain! I thought some unseen attacker was hitting me with a 2X4!

Fortunately none of the hundreds of very dangerous snakes I have handled managed to bite me. Wearing glasses once saved my eyes from damage when I was hit in the face by a spitting cobra that ejected venom from 8-10 feet away. Due to more lax handling methods many rear-fang snakes have bitten me and all I ever got from that was an irritating itchy spot that did not last long. Again - if someone is allergic to the low potency venom of rear fang snakes they could have a serious health issue.

A few tarantulas and scorpions have nailed me. Nothing serious happened - but it does seem like the smaller the scorpion the more potent and painful the venom. An allergic reaction for some people would result in swelling of the wound, fever - possibly worse. Fire ants? I run into those guys here and in Texas all the time - nasty little buggers - would rather take my chances with a rattler or cobra.

My most painful venom experiences have been with fish and other marine life forms. In the Atlantic I have experienced serious swelling and inflammation from the venom of red sponges, sea urchins, fire coral, scorpion fish, and jellyfish (including the Portugese-Man-O-War) - many times! Actually there are some species of game fish that have venom too in the dorsal/pectoral fins. I once had a bad experience in South Florida wading in flood waters after a hurricane and stepping on the dorsal spine of a large Walking Catfish. I spent 4 days with throbbing foot elevated and covered with hot compresses, before walking again!

In Micronesia we had to take great care around the 'killer cone snails' - but I still got nailed several times by the Crown of Thorns Starfish, some varieties of Lionfish while capturing them, and the Sea Catfish. The South pacific has the most lethal marine life - including sea snakes with venom 50 times more potent then a cobra. Like the sharks - the sea snakes were ever present when we were in the water, but they showed little or no interest in us.

Some claim that antibodies you develop from being exposed to venoms makes the body resistant to arthritis. And so far I am free of that health issue. Humm . . . maybe I should donate my body to science? At any rate - I always believed that old saying: "What does not kill you makes you stronger'.

But I do not need any more 'strengthening' at this point in my life.