Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Red Bugs & Spanish Moss

By Bobbi

I’m going to venture a guess and suggest most people have heard of Spanish Moss and maybe even know what it looks like. They have possibly either seen it in person, looked at photographs of it, or viewed it in movies or on television. The southern states are known to have it in abundance and Florida is no exception. Our Live Oak trees in the area are covered and lavishly garnished with the light greenish-gray air plant, especially when located near a body of water.

Some strands of the moss reach almost to the ground and have a romantic look whether viewed in the moonlight or sunlight. It’s tempting for people to reach down and pick up clumps of the plant off the ground for use in floral arrangements, like my mom did when she visited us a few years ago. I would caution against that for a very good reason.

Down here, Spanish Moss is usually covered in red bugs. Now, for you Northerners who don’t know what red bugs are, they are called chiggers where I come from. No matter what they’re called, they produce the same results. If they bite you, plan on scratching yourself because they make you itch! A favorite place for them to hide and bite is along the skin where the elastic part of underwear is located.

In order for the moss to be used by florists, it must be treated first. This is usually done one of two ways, either by boiling it or cooking it in a microwave oven for a short amount of time. This will kill the bugs.

Fortunately, my mom didn’t get bit but if you do there are a couple of good ways to stop the itching. You can use either Calamine Lotion or nail polish on the bites and if you do, I hope you have the good sense to use clear polish!

No comments: