What are Harvestmen?

Harvestmen are more commonly known as “daddy long legs.”  Although there are thirty seven families and six thousand five hundred species, “daddy long legs” refers to only one family of Harvestmen, the Phalangiidae.  With such a profound number of species, harvestmen can be found almost anywhere in the world.  Interestingly enough, eighteen families of harvestmen can be found in Texas.

The old legend claims that “daddy long legs” or harvestmen are the most venomous animal in the world; but they do not have fangs long enough or a mouth conducive to biting a human being.  This tale, however, is nothing but a preposterous tall tale!  Harvestmen do not have glands that contain venom.  Also, the chelicerae or pseudo fangs are simply used to grasp things and are not powerful enough to penetrate the skin of a human being.  Furthermore, harvestmen are slightly pesky nuisances, especially when crawling briskly across you, but they are medically harmless.

Distinctiveness of Harvestmen 

Although most people probably consider them to be spiders, harvestmen differ as spiders have two separate body segments.  Harvestmen have a single, globular body that has a distinctly segmented abdomen.  The two eyes almost appear as if they are glued in place on the surface of the body.  The harvestmen’s eyes do not form images and are used in conjunction with their second pair of legs, pseudo antennae, to delve into their environment.  The body looks much like the body of a crab.  Extending from the single-segmented body are many long spindly legs appearing much like very thick strands of hair.  There are, however, species of harvestmen that have short legs.  Additionally, harvestmen have scent glands just outside the base of their legs that produce an obtrusive odor.  This odor may indeed be the reason that many people believe them to be poisonous.

Living Conditions

Harvestmen, found in covered areas such as caves and beneath logs and other wooded areas, are considered both predators and scavengers.  They prey upon other small insects and arthropods alike, most of which also inhabit wooded areas with overgrown vegetation.  Typical arachnids have a filtering mechanism called a sucking stomach that protects them from parasites.  Harvestmen do not have this filtering mechanism and are prone to internal parasites.   Harvestmen are equal opportunity in that they will eat dead animals, live or dead plant matter, and the feces of most any animal.  These omnivores do hunt their prey but find meals of dung equally delicious!

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American Cockroach

The Common Cockroach

The American cockroach or water bug has been around for thousands of years even before it came to America.  Known as the periplaneta americana in the science community, it is the largest species of cockroaches known to man.  Often considered a pest, the American cockroach grows to an average length of four to seven centimeters.  It is reddish brown in color as nymphs through adulthood.  The American cockroach body is appears to be a flattened oval with shield looking parts covering its head and wings folded down on its posterior region.  American cockroaches have compound eyes with over two thousand lenses and thus, do not prefer light.  Also, it has chewing mouthparts and long antennae.  The chewing mouthparts are used to consume the diet of decaying organic matter, leather, paper, book bindings, hair, dry or dead skin flakes, clothing, dead animals, and starch.  American cockroaches particularly enjoy feasting on rotting food matter and other dead cockroaches.

American cockroaches can usually be seen traveling at night darting about countertops in infested homes searching for their next meal.  Despite their size, American cockroaches can fit through tiny cracks and is considered to be one of the quickest insects around.  The medical hazard of cockroaches is their potentiality to pick up bacteria on their legs and spread it to food or countertops.  This can lead to food poisoning or other infections.  Cockroaches produce an odorous secretion that alters the taste of food and becomes very strong as the population grows.  Fortunately, the American cockroach does not reproduce as quickly as many other insects.  They go through incomplete metamorphosis with three developmental stages.  Adult females produce eggs that are encased in an ootheca which is deposited out of their abdomen in a safe place.  In less than eight weeks, the cockroaches emerge from the egg as nymphs and in another year, they will mature to the adult stage.  Adult females usually live just one more year and produce less than two hundred eggs.

The History of the American Cockroach

The term cockroach comes from the Spanish word cucaracha which means cockroach.  However, the American cockroach was transported here around 1625 from Africa through shipping containers containing other items.  Many insects not indigenous to the area have arrived from other countries and regions through this means.  They prefer warm, moist areas but have adapted to dry areas as long as they have access to water.  Thus, you will find them in basements, sewers, kitchens, and bathrooms.  American cockroaches are not well adapted to colder climates.

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Gas vs. Charcoal Grilling

Grilling Choices

Grills are used in one of three ways: high heat using direct radiation for steaks, indirect heat using convention roasting for whole chickens, and indirect heat using smoke roasting for ribs.  Each of these can be performed by either a gas or charcoal grill.  However, meat lovers and grillers everywhere are adamantly divided in their preferences for gas and charcoal grills.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Charcoal grills are a ritual with campers and for picnics while gas grills are quicker for a nice grilled steak dinner.  Charcoal grills typically cook at temperatures between five and seven hundred degrees Fahrenheit.  This high temperature is perfect for red meat cuts like sirloin and t-bone steaks.  Fortunately, the temperature can be changed slowly using the air vents at the top of the grill to control the amount of oxygen allowed inside the grill.  It is recommended that you use a reliable oven thermometer to ensure proper temperature management in charcoal grills.  Another helpful hint is to use two stage cooking.  In two stage cooking, you have a hot side and a warm side which prevents food from burning and overcooking when monitored correctly.  Charcoal grills are definitely more technical, require time for the charcoal to heat up, and there is much clean up involved.

Most gas grills get to temperatures of four to six hundred degrees Fahrenheit.  A digital thermometer is recommended for use with gas grills as the thermometers are on the top of the grill away from the meat; thus, the grill thermometer is more than likely not equating the temperature at meat level.  Like charcoal grills, it is recommended to use a two or three stage cooking technique on gas grills.  One stage should be hot for meat, one medium heat for vegetable grilling, and one warm for food ready to serve.  Another difference is that gas grills have metal grates atop the fire that prevents the meat and vegetables from coming in direct contact with the fire.

Gas grills provide the convenience of a quick setup, heat up time, and clean up with temperature control for the novice griller.  Gas grills are more temperamental in nature but allow you to control the element of fire.  Some grilling enthusiasts argue that there is a taste difference between the two but the difference seems to be in the functionality and preference of the griller.  Grill tonight’s dinner, whether you use gas or charcoal!

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