Snakes in a Box

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December 8, 2020

Greg Retlewski

For Rose Pest Solutions Senior Service Technician Greg Retlewski, a pair of routine rodent bait station checks in June 2019 proved to be anything but routine.

Within the span of a week, Retlewski encountered an eastern milk snake and a blue racer snake inside rodent bait stations in residential settings in Northwest Michigan.

“In both situations, I didn’t hear anything when I approached the stations,” Retlewski recalled.

While surprised by these encounters Retlewski was able to keep his cool, although the blue racer snake encounter frayed his nerves a bit.

“Of the two snakes the blue racer is more aggressive. I have seen them chase people across parking lots,” said Retlewski.

Retlewski said he does not have the expertise and equipment to remove snakes, but in his experience once the stations are opened snakes (or other animals) will leave quickly because they lose the comfort and darkness of the bait stations.

“They were both there long enough for me to snap a few photos and then they were gone,” Retlewski said.

It’s not unusual for Retlewski to find non-rodents in rodent bait stations; he said he has found insects such as cockroaches and leopard slugs.

Greg Retlewski
Greg Retlewski found an eastern milk snake (left) and a blue racer snake (right) inside rodent bait stations in summer of 2019.

Retlewski added that he thinks that an unusually wet spring/summer in Michigan in 2019 was the reason the snakes found their way to rodent bait stations. “They were looking for a dark place to hunker down and stay dry,” he said.

The photo Retlewski took of the eastern milk snake was good enough to be included as part of the 2020 Copesan Pest Calendar. The write-up noted that “the snake pictured here is non-venomous and beneficial around strucures, as one study found that mice make up over 40% of their diet by volume; it may not, however, be beneficial to your fight or flight response.” — Brad Harbison

An Insect That Can Withstand Being Run Over by a Car?

University of CaIifornia-Irvine professor and principal investigator David Kisailus has been seeking to identify what makes the diabolical ironclad beetle so strong.

The beetle’s survival depends on two key factors: its ability to convincingly play dead and an exoskeleton that’s one of the toughest, most crush-resistant structures known to exist in the biological world. In a paper published in October in Nature, researchers from UCI and other institutions revealed the material components — and their nano- and microscale blueprints — that make the organism so indestructible, while also demonstrating how engineers can benefit from these designs.

Lead author Jesus Rivera, a graduate student in Kisailus’ lab, collected the beetles from sites around the Inland Empire campus and brought them back to Kisailus’ lab to perform compression tests, comparing the results to those of other species native to Southern California. They found that the diabolical ironclad beetle can withstand a force of about 39,000 times its body weight. A 200-pound man would have to endure the crushing weight of 7.8 million pounds to equal this feat.

Source: University of California, Irvine

Diabolical ironclad beetle.
Ironclad beetle: Jesus Rivera