Don’t let them bug you

Posted by Oakhurst Farm Cottage - 28 Jan 2022 | Blog

Life on a farm is never clear cut. Unlike urban areas, there are so many day to day elements which just can’t be controlled. Yip, we may have oodles of space and fresh air galore, but the appeal of that natural environment means we need to share it with all sorts of other creepy crawlies and the like. At Oakhurst, we’ve made it our mission to live in harmony with as many of these as we can. With this in mind, depending on the time of year of your stay, you may come across a few of these mostly harmless creatures in and around your cottage or tent or on the footpaths or trails.

Mosquitoes tend to be more common in the summer months.

Kicking off with pest control

Before we get stuck in to the details of what bugs you’ll find where at Oakhurst, let’s look at why we’ve decided to keep pest control to a bare minimum and find viable alternatives. It all boils down to not contaminating a sensitive environment. Essentially every drop or sprinkle or spray of poison affects a long line of other life which encounters it. A great example of this is rats. They’re easily controlled with rat poison, but they’re also a major source of food for the beautiful Barn owls and Spotted eagle-owls on the farm. Dead rat lies in a field after being poisoned by rat poison, owl takes the easy pickings and consumes the poison-ridden rat, and now we’ve killed the owl as well…you get the picture?

Moving to mozzies

The one positive about our mosquitos is that they’re not malaria carriers, so while you may have an irritating bite or two (or three after some summer rain), you’re not going to be sweating it out with fever when you get home. At Oakhurst we’ve got what mozzies consider the ultimate environment: Thickly forested areas, a river which naturally has sections of standing water, lush meadows and some farm dams. Mosquitoes tend to be more active in the evening and nothing can be more irritating than one buzzing around your room at night. Some great ways of keeping mozzies at bay are: Close your bedroom windows in the early part of the evening, burn a mosquito repellent coil outside while you’re having your braai (they really do work and are pretty cheap), put a fan on low speed in your room (the moving air makes it impossible for them to settle), plug an electric oil filled repellant unit into one of the wall plugs in your room. 

We have fly traps around the farm and do spray selected areas for flies.

Flies, flies and more flies

There’s no hiding it, a dairy farm has flies and during the heat of summer, we have plenty. In your cottage or accommodation, flies are primarily attracted to food. Leave a plate of food (especially meat) out on the kitchen counter or a dirty pot in the sink and you’re creating a magnet for flies. We do have fly traps set up around the farm and occasionally spray specific areas for flies as to eliminate the impact on other insects, but there is not a whole lot we can naturally do to combat flies. Like mozzies, flies struggle in moving air, so a blowing fan tends to keep them at bay. In the colder winter months, flies are hardly a problem.

Incy wincy spider

Most spiders on Oakhurst are harmless.

The spiders you may find on Oakhurst are generally pretty harmless. The most common spider you could encounter in your cottage is the Rain spider. These large brown arachnids may look scary, but they rarely bite unless picked up, in which case it is more like a bee sting and might itch for a while. Golden orb spiders can often be seen along the forest trails as they span their incredible webs between the trees. If you’re not keen on having their webs wrapped around your head, make sure you send someone else ahead of you on your morning trail run or ride through the forest. Baboon spiders are fairly rare and live underground, they inflict a nasty bite which is painful for several hours and may require medication. Kids especially should generally avoid lifting logs, stones or rocks around the cottages or anywhere on the farm. 

Don’t use your shoe!

Please don’t kill spiders. Here’s a great method you can use to catch one in your cottage if you need to. (99% of the time it will be a Rain spider).

  1. Get a glass container or tumbler.
  2. Place it gently over the spider (No they don’t jump!).
  3. Have a piece of paper ready, one that’s wider than the glass.
  4. Slide the paper under the rim of the glass to enclose the spider.
  5. Lift the glass and paper carefully, making sure the paper stays tight against the glass and carry outside.
  6. Quickly flick the paper off and shake the glass out into the garden to release the spider. Job done!

Tick it off

During the dry summer months, ticks are pretty common along the forest trails and in the grassy areas of the farm. Smaller “pepper ticks” are quite hard to see on clothing and skin, so a good inspection of legs, socks and shoes should be done after a walk or at the end of the day. The quicker you get the tick off you, the less chance you’ve got of getting tick bite fever, so make sure you check yourselves and smaller kids carefully.

Ticks are a problem in the dry summer months and it’s worth inspecting legs, socks and shoes after walks and hikes.

Back to rats

Rats are part of farm life, we can confidently say that you’re unlikely to ever see a rat anywhere near your cottage. Rats tend to hang around the stables and dairy where they are attracted to feeds. While traditionally poisons would have been used, we recently introduced a family of cats, which keep the rat numbers at bay in a more eco-friendly manner. These cats, once feral, were rescue cases from our local animal welfare and have now settled into their new homes in the dairy and stables on Oakhurst. Here they’re fed by us daily and of course do a great job in keeping the rat numbers under control.

Our rat numbers are kept at bay by the Oakhurst farm cats.
Two of the farm cats on duty at the dairy and stables.

Snaking around 

More often seen in the hot summer months, but still rarely sighted, we have a few snake species on Oakhurst. Most common are the Boomslang, a venomous but extremely shy snake which tends to keep off the ground. As the name suggested they stick to trees and bushes and if seen will slowly move off. Our most dangerous snake is undoubtedly the Puff adder, which is a thickly set snake with an arrow shaped head. Puff adders have a tendency to lie still when approached by people and being well camouflaged, are not seen until they give their distinctive hollow hissing sound as a warning to move off. 

It’s good to be aware of Puff adders on particularly hot days, when they tend to be out and we often advise that parents of small toddlers walk near or ahead of them on the farm trails. Should you spot a Puff adder near or around the cottages or accommodation, please let us know and we will relocate it.

Don’t be batty

Oakhurst has a healthy population of bats, which as night sets in you’re likely to spot catching insects or eating fruit from the surrounding indigenous trees. Bats are harmless and will rarely ever come anywhere near you intentionally. They’re also remarkably efficient at catching insets for food. These include mosquitoes and flies, making them another important link in keeping the mozzies, flies and other midges under control.

Bats keep mosquitoes, midges and other insect life under control.

Don’t leave the light on

Another useful tip to keeping insects from making a beeline for your cottage at night is to minimise the use of lights, especially outside lights. Leave outside lights on during the summer months especially and you’ll notice a mountain of dead insects below the light in the morning. If you’re not outside, keep those outside lights off to avoid the attraction.

What about you?

We could bang on about every possible insect, snake or bug you might spot on your stay at Oakhurst, but here we’ve covered the most common. Anyway, you’re coming to Oakhurst to have fun. What’s important to remember is that while a handful of these may be harmful, you’ll rarely encounter much more than a few flies and mosquitoes. 

With a clear explanation as to the negative impact of poisons and sprays, at Oakhurst we’re sticking to our guns. This is a farm, a unique environment for our guests to enjoy and for us to maintain. Without an ongoing plan to keep a balance between ourselves and nature, the whole lot simply isn’t sustainable.

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