Warm Weather Brings out Wildlife, Insects, Poison Ivy

Warm Weather Brings out Wildlife, Insects, Poison Ivy

Jefferson Lab shares its grounds with an array of wild creatures, and recent construction has disturbed the natural habitat of many. Likewise, some of these critters can be disruptive to lab operations and dangerous if confronted – especially when they choose to enter indoor workspaces or undermine structures.

For example, groundhogs dig holes in accelerator shielding. Occasionally, snakes are seen near buildings. Stinging insects and spiders can be present indoors and out.

The Environment, Safety, Health and Quality and Facilities Management and Logistics divisions urge everyone to take precautions when working in areas that mimic or overlap the natural habitat of native creatures especially when working on the Accelerator Site during the summer when many of these creatures are most active.

These precautions include:

  • Never reach into a dark area. Always fully illuminate the area and check for spiders, insects (and other pests), sharp objects, and other hazards;
  • Be extra careful around all pipes and under the gas-flow handles on gas-storage bottles and overhanging eaves on buildings – wasps are known to make nests in these locations;
  • Avoid and report areas where stinging insects or biting insects are present, such as bees and wasps, or biting flies and mosquitoes;
  • Be observant around asphalt, concrete slabs and wide metal pipes, which provide warm spots for snakes to sun themselves, and
  • Stay clear of tall grasses, water in ditches, and rotting wood, which can hide snakes and ticks and other potential hazards such as holes.
  • Never feed the wildlife, and be sure to dispose of leftover food items in waste containers that are emptied nightly.


If you come across any wildlife in circumstances that cause you concern, alert Mike Lewellen at ext. 7169 or lewellen@jlab.org and follow up by putting in a FM&L Work Request. Do not confront or corner wildlife – FM&L retains the services of a pest control company and can safely deal with your concern.

If you are stung or bitten, report to Occupational Medicine and then contact Lewellen to notify him of the location and conditions. Prompt medical care can help prevent infection and complications that could result in unnecessary pain and lost work time.

Poisonous Plants: poison ivy, oak and sumac

Likewise, native poison plants such as poison ivy and poison oak quickly grow in disturbed ground such as construction sites. According to the Centers for Disease Control, poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac release an oil, called urushiol, when the leaf or other plant parts are bruised, damaged or burned. Skin exposure to urushiol in amounts equaling less than a grain of table salt can cause an allergic reaction, resulting in an itchy red rash with bumps or blisters in 80 to 90 percent of adults.

Although over-the-counter topical medications may relieve symptoms for most people, immediate medical attention may be required for severe reactions, particularly when exposed to the smoke from burning these poisonous plants (never burn these plants). When working in areas harboring poisonous plants, the CDC recommends avoiding the plants when possible, covering all exposed areas with clothing or barrier skin creams and thoroughly cleaning items that may have come into contact with poisonous plants. For more information, including pictures of the plants, visit the CDC's website at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/plants/

If you should come across poison ivy or poison oak growing in areas where it could come in contact with people, submit a FM&L Work Request and it will be sprayed.

Lyme disease in Virginia
Over the last several years there has been a steady increase in the reported cases of Lyme disease in Virginia. It is important to remember that ticks become more active with warmer weather, increasing the risk of being exposed to this tick-borne disease. While several types of tick-borne disease are found in Virginia, Lyme disease is the most common infection reported. Most cases occur during the late spring and early summer with illness presentation in June, July and August. Common symptoms of Lyme disease include: fever, headache, fatigue, "bull's-eye" rash, muscle aches and stiff neck.

Lyme disease is preventable. Information about Lyme disease and how to reduce the risk of contracting it is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage, at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/lyme/index.htm. According to the CDC, adhering to the following practices can decrease the risk of contracting this infection:

  • Protect yourself from tick bites,
  • Control the tick population in your environment,
  • Consult a doctor after a tick bit, and
  • Know the early signs of tick-borne illness.

The Virginia Department of Health also provides information on preventing tick bites and tick-borne illness at: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/tick-borne-disease-prevention-and-control/

Visit the Virginia Department of Health for information on identifying and avoiding a variety of summer health concerns: http://www.vdh.state.va.us/epidemiology/DEE/Vectorborne/