* Unintended reproduction

In yesterday’s post, I referred to my science unit on plant reproduction.  In the terrific Earthbox Junior, our plants grew at a phenomenal rate.  I used nutrient-rich Happy Frog potting soil from a boutique plant store to avoid introducing any unwanted bacteria or critters into the planter.  The plants also came from that same pricy store.  So far, so good, as long as my dearest teaching widower didn’t ask how much it all cost.

Alas, I forgot to add moss, which has a nice spore method of reproduction.  At that point, I decided to try a novel approach and go frugal.  Our yard has a growing mass of moss, since the deer have eaten everything else.  I culled a nice sample and watched it die in the planter.  But to our surprise, the “dead” ornamental moss around our bonsai ficus tree sprang to life!  All was good and we kept a close watch for the spore cycle of the moss.

We examined the planter daily with a digital microscope and I nearly fell over when some giant legs and antennae shot past the screen.  I’ve seen too many alien movies.  The creature eluded us until it grew into a recognizable poisonous spider!  What are the odds that a small sample of soil from my yard would yield a brown widow spider?  The worst was yet to come.

Aphids appeared next, all over our nerve plant, so I doused them with soapy water and waited a day before examining their carcasses.  As I carried the planter to our viewing location (AKA insect morgue), a sharp-eyed kiddo spotted tiny brown dots running around the planter.  I had carried the Earthbox against my chest, so those dots also ran up and down my body.  Further exciting microscopic investigation revealed dog tick nymphs.  Hundreds of them, springing into life in my arms.   Yes, I was bitten on my head, face, and ankle.  No students were bitten, which was miraculous.

Dermacentor_variabilis

Check out TickEncounter’s resources or ask to see my videos of these critters!

9 thoughts on “* Unintended reproduction

    • It was intense. My biggest concern was that no kids got ticks on them. And at the time, I still wasn’t sure what they were. Those buggers have survived for about 7 months without feeding. A kind person who took the planter recently found some of them crawling around in the soil. Yikes! We got to look at them under our microscope.

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    • They do seem to have been eliminated now but they have a much longer shelf life than I had realized. This group lasted over 6 months without blood. Hey, maybe you can work them into your story! Blood eaters and all that. Which makes me wonder why you don’t get the heebie jeebies when you’re writing!

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      • I’m glad they are gone for now, especially in your classroom! Can’t help what goes on outside in the soil and vegetation, though. Ugh! When we had dogs we had a real bad tick problem. That’s one reason I don’t like ticks, and I’ve had a bad bite before too, so I think I might have had a case of Lyme Disease. I was on strong meds after that for awhile. Never want to go through it again.
        Well, that’s a thought…to add in some bloodsucking ticks to my story! It’s finished now, but I’ll bet I can add some in somewhere down the line! Thanks for the suggestion!
        I guess writing about creepy things is different from just hearing about them or experiencing them. It’s just fun to write about, so it doesn’t bother me. 🙂

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      • I’m sorry to hear about your tick woes. I had Lyme disease, too, but I blame the deer for dropping ticks like flies. Bad analogy. Interesting that you can write so vividly about something that would creep you out!

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