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Forget lions or bears or tigers, watch for bugs, oh my

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Summer fun is finally here, but along with swimming, camping and playing outdoor sports, safety must be the first line of concern in any fun activity. 

Those at Cannon and surrounding areas need to be particularly aware of black widows, spiders, scorpions, centipedes and fleas, said Master Sgt. Michael Elliot, a Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) Specialist for the 27th Fighter Wing. Sergeant Elliot also said that while killer bees are not a big topic of conversation, it is important to be aware of them. 

“You need to know what’s out there that can hurt somebody, regardless of the environment,” said Sergeant Elliot. While his job deals with training pilots, being prepared is good for everyone. Prevention may not be 100 percent effective, but Sergeant Elliot calls it the big key. “Look before you reach into any dark areas, brush or if you have leaves built up on the back porch or stuff in the garage that’s been there for years,” he said. 

Sergeant Elliot added that barns and sheds require extra caution because they are prime places for the brown recluse — also known as the fiddle back spider — to hide. “The brown recluse is reclusive by nature, so they stay in areas that are not often disturbed.” 

When getting dressed, especially if camping, watch out for insects that may have climbed into shoes. Sergeant Elliot said insects can cling to the inside even when shaken. 

Those with children need to be especially cautious about summer insect safety. “Kids are the biggest [concern] because they are out in the environment where they can get bitten more easily,” said Sergeant Elliot. “For a child, [poisonous bites] are more life threatening,” 

It’s important to be aware of what children are doing because they have a smaller body mass, said Senior. Airman Ben Stern, who is also a SERE Specialist for the 27th Fighter Wing. He said bites that make adults sick can be fatal to a child. 

The only poisonous spider fairly common in New Mexico is the black widow spider, which is indeed black with a red mark on its abdomen, according to the New Mexico Poisonous Control Center. They advise medical care should be obtained rapidly (i.e., car to a doctor or emergency room, but ambulance not necessary) if you believe that a child has been bitten by a black widow.