This article is borrowed from The American Home Institute, the education arm of Andy Bozeman HOME. AHI is an invitation-only institution. You can’t get into it without an invitation, but I wanted to share this with you.

Necrosis is a form of cell injury that results in the premature death of cells in living tissue, caused by intrusions such as infection, toxins, or trauma.

If you’re thinking about a career in the dwelling industry, you should be aware that houses are not just situated in peaceful, pretty, centrally located neighborhoods populated by residents who maintain perfectly manicured lawns surrounding clean, neat, pest-free homes. Instead, many sites will be, whether far-flung or not, overgrown, and pest infested; just plain filthy.

“Pest” is the key word. It’s far too general a term, and unfairly applied to most living things, but it’s the word most often used to describe any living thing a human being doesn’t like, even other human beings.

With that in mind, here are some pests you’re likely to face in the long years ahead.


There will be tiny insects which attack alone, such as flies, mites, mosquitoes, ticks, red bugs, and bed bugs. They will bite, burrow, and suck your blood, leaving welts, rashes, and sores. There will be stinging insects which attack in swarms, like bees, hornets, yellowjackets, and wasps.

There will be spiders. Some will be harmless, their only “attack” being to spin webs of sticky silk across obvious walking paths and trails, as if they know you’re coming. Of course they don’t know you’re coming. They’re expecting mosquitoes, and moths, not you walking through their dinner table. But you’ll walk right through them, then have that unique-to-human-beings freak-out moment, then realize the encounter isn’t fatal, then move on.


I got a job once because of a spider. I was scouting property in north central Alabama. Walking with the customer, leading the way, talking over my shoulder, I walked right into a spider web, which was stretched across the path. It was probably four feet across. My face went right through the middle of it, so I ended up with a 5-inch garden spider over my face, with a grip like the Xenomorph from Alien. I already knew that spiders which spin webs out in the open are almost never poisonous so I wasn’t worried about what might be covering my face. I just raised my hand and gently half-swept and half-lifted the spider off, then let it go on a nearby bush while I said “I am so sorry. I’ve ruined your breakfast.” The owner asked me, “Did you just apologize to a spider?” I blushed a little because you’re not supposed to talk to spiders, especially in front of customers in a professional setting. But I answered meekly. “Yes, I did. I messed up her breakfast. Now she’s got to start weaving her web all over again.” I stood quietly, waiting for the owner to tell me that I was a lunatic and we needed to leave because I was not going to be hired. Suddenly, a big grin filled her face and she said, enthusiastically, “You are exactly the kind of person I’m looking for. You’ve got the job!


Other spiders will be dangerously poisonous. Some of the most familiar are the widow spiders: black, brown, red-back, and red-legged; the recluse spiders: brown and Chilean; and the wolf spider. Like most living things, they want to be left alone, but can be very aggressive when provoked. They seek dark places to hide, so they’ll climb up your pants leg, or underneath your hair. Either way, they’re next to skin which is the only thing they enjoy biting. A little pressure, like a knee bending inside blue jeans, or a hand brushing a wave of hair off a shoulder is all the provocation they need to attack.

I know you’re expecting something else spidery, so here it is : TARANTULA! There. Did that strike fear in your heart? Hollywood’s horror movies have made the tarantula the most recognized, most feared spider in the world. These big, beefy spiders strike fear in the hearts of arachnophobes everywhere, but in truth, tarantulas are some of the least aggressive, most non-dangerous spiders around. If you encounter one, don’t poke it with your measuring stick. Leave the poor thing alone.

Don’t forget scorpions. They live in the same dark, dry places as every other creature we’ve mentioned, the same places you must go to measure and inspect. Their habitat stretches from coast to coast and border to border. When relaxed and unthreatened, their tail is also relaxed and uncurled, if not laid flat. But, if that huge stinger is poised over their head and pointed in your direction, it’s their way of saying, “I see you, and I’m ready.” The problem with scorpions is they don’t know they’re little and you’re big. Size doesn’t matter, and with prejudice they’ll attack any perceived enemy or meal. The stinger injects a toxin which, at the very least, is extremely painful, but can also be life threatening.


Lastly for the insects are the ants. I’m old enough to remember a world when picnics and kitchen cupboards were only invaded by tiny, harmless, non-stinging black ants. We thought they were terrible abominations of creation, and we complained about them a lot. Little did we appreciate how fortunate we were, back then.

Along came the fire ant. Having entered the USA through a Mobile, Alabama port in 1948, they now stretch from sea to sea across the southern half of the country. Whenever you’re scouting property, keep an eye to the ground. Make sure neither you nor your clients or companions are standing near a fire ant mound or trail. Their stings are painful, long-lasting, and can be debilitating for children and the elderly.


Snakes and rodents that bitingly defend their territory will be waiting in crawlspaces and attics, inside outbuildings, and under rocks and bushes. They just want to be left alone. But, when you jab a rigid measuring device into their hiding place, their only conclusion is, “I’m about to be eaten,” so they defend themselves with posturing and coiling, hissing, and rattling, and displays of claws and teeth and fangs, until, if you don’t go away, they strike.


Way out in the wilderness, wild large-animal encounters are waiting. Throughout North America, to name only a few, are bears, mountain lions, wild cats, panthers (leopards), wild pigs and boar hogs, packs of wild dogs and wolves, and coyotes. If they feel cornered, they will go after you. If they feel hungry, they will rip your equipment to pieces looking for food. If they feel really hungry, after they’re through with your equipment, they will eat your pets and small children. You may be next.


Forests and fields are the home of nature’s most sublime creature, the deer, peace personified in a shy, big-brown-eyed, soft-furred, friend of man and maiden. But let me tell ya’, those suckers can kick! And, if there’s a baby family-member nearby, watch out! That shy, big-brown-eyed, soft-furred, friend of man and maiden, will instantly transform into a vicious, beady-eyed, head-down, antler-armed, fiend. In this case antlers should be renamed attacklers.


Also, in fields and forests, or any area with overgrown vegetation, are plants with toxic sap and nectar. Poison Ivy, Sumac, and nettles are everywhere. Skin contact can cause severe irritation. Inhaling nectar and pollen by sniffing directly from the blossom can cause the same irritation in the nose and mouth. Worst of all, when toxic plants are burned, the smoke carries the toxin into the air. Irritation of the esophagus can cause the throat to swell until swallowing and breathing is impossible. Breathing smoke-borne plant poison can cause the lungs to become so inflamed they stop working. Asphyxiation follows.


This article is about you protecting yourself, but sometimes other things can be affected, too. If you make site visits with companions, like pets….. and they’re small…… and they’re out in the open……. be prepared to be a helpless witness as they’re carried off by large birds of prey. In addition, hawks and eagles and falcons can mistake brightly colored hats and tassels for mice and bugs. So, be prepared to be swooped upon, and maybe even taloned on the scalp and shoulders by a bird of prey that confuses your clothing ornaments for a meal.

Another flying-creature-related caution is histoplasmosis, a dangerous infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings, which can be found in crawl spaces……. and attics….. and outbuildings……. and barns…….. and deserted mobile homes……… and derelict vehicles……. and pretty much everywhere you will ever go to do your job.


While we’re talking about breathing….. These are out there waiting for you to inhale : plant allergens, black mold, fiberglass insulation, asbestos, lead dust, PCBs in broken fluorescent light fixtures, fluorocarbons from old air conditioning and refrigerator compressors, sewer gas from broken or open plumbing drains, floating spores, and bacteria carried by wind-blown dust particles. When in doubt, wear a mask.


Bodies of water, like rivers, lakes, and swamps, are home to alligators, anacondas, boa constrictors, river rats, beavers, eels (as in electric), and the big cats and dogs and bears and wolves and pigs that come there to drink and search for food.

Microscopic organisms live in the same rivers, lakes, and swamps. Allowing pathogens to enter your body by drinking the water, or exposing skin lesions, or bodily orifices to the water, can lead to results which are dire, even fatal.

If the creatures already in the water don’t get you, those that come to the water might, so be careful.


Then, there’s the pest part about other human beings. There could be confrontations with landowners who are simply protecting their property. This is not the landowner being a human pest. It’s just lawful self-protection. But caution is urged to prevent an uncomfortable meeting from escalating into a stand-your-ground moment when someone gets hurt or killed. Be sweet. Stay alive.

Pesty humans are the ones who violently protect illegal activity, like building or burning or clearing where they shouldn’t; or stealing wild game, or firewood, or timber. Moonshine stills, marijuana farms, and meth labs, are things likely to be concealed in the same rural settings where your clients send you to scout a home site. It’s not like Breaking Bad, where an unassuming RV is parked in plain sight in a clearing in the desert. More often, illegal activities and installations are hidden in wild, rural areas. Marijuana is concealed in forests, and among tall grain crops. Stills and meth labs could be in ravines and hollows, or houses and barns which appear abandoned, or old railroad cars and truck bodies, or (invoke Breaking Bad) unassuming RVs parked in plain sight in a clearing.

As you hike and tromp and scout and measure and inspect, keep your eyes and ears open. If you spot anything that doesn’t look or feel safe, walk away quietly, and quickly leave the area.


It’s very important to be aware of the current hunting season. Being in the field to measure a layout for a floor plan won’t go well if you’re mistaken for a game animal by a hunter, legal or not. Wear an orange vest, and hat. Call out to warn that you’re human. Don’t walk towards shooting. Keep your head. Think!


My career spans five decades. I’ve delivered more than 43,500 residential projects in fifty-six countries. Of those more than seven thousand have been in rural, even wild settings, which required my personal inspection. I’ve encountered almost every pest presented here, including snakes, spiders, alligators, germs, spores, and armed-to-the-teeth pot growers and meth makers who were very unhappy to see me, even though I was armed only with a tape measure.

For your enjoyment, here’s a list of some of my career encounters with the wilds of the world.

I’ll start with Necrosis. I’m dealing with it right now. It’s what triggered the idea for this article. In my case Necrosis is the result of a spider bite, or to be exact five on the same leg at the same time, three within the diameter of a quarter. However, any venom, be it spider, snake, scorpion, bee, wasp, or hornet can cause skin and muscle tissue to die and prevent the body from healing the wound. The result can be huge, gaping sores, that take a long time to heal, or can only be treated by surgery to remove the sore and close the wound.

So, here’s my personal short-list of career related pest encounters, wounds, and infections :

Wolf Spider bite – this is the doctor’s best guess, due to the condition of the wound. 1988 – took a year to heal; 2001 – required surgery; 2014 – Doctor’s care was effective. Five bites on my left leg. Three within the diameter of a quarter. Luckily the three bites together involved a part of my body with very little tissue, the skinny skin of my shinny shin shin.
Brown Recluse – never verified but looked like similar known bites. 1991 – was not terribly serious but required medication. She only got me a little bit.
Rattlesnake in a crawlspace 1984 – bit the toe of my work boot – no penetration. 1986 – bit the side of my work boot – no penetration.
Copperhead (water moccasin) in a crawlspace 1987 – bit the heel of my work boot – no penetration.
Histoplasmosis– probably from an old barn or attic 1994 – extremely sick – left scars in my lungs
Alligator – lunged at me from murky water – bit the entire sole of my work boot, as I tried to kick it away. 2003 – in south Alabama – no injury to me or the gator. Because I’m putting this in writing, I must be very honest and accurate. The alligator was about 24 inches long. However, when I tell this story in person, he’s a twelve-footer.
Wasps – high up in the top of a grain silo about to be converted to an extra apartment on a private estate 1997 – twelve stings – fortunately I carried a can of wasp spray and defended myself with that. I was hanging onto a ladder, which was suspended over a girder about thirty feet off the ground. It could have been a lot worse.
Hornets 2012 – no stings. I drove my truck across an old country bridge. The hornets must have built their nest underneath the bridge. Hundreds swarmed after the truck. Some landed on the edge of the truck bed and the windshield wipers and began to furiously sting the vehicle. Others dove at the truck, kamikaze-style, sounding like rocks, and dying from the impact. They followed me three miles, before finally leaving. The frenzy was repeated when I had to cross the same bridge to return to the main highway. That time they followed for four miles.
Yellowjackets 2001 – Eighty-seven stings on my head, neck, arms and back – Deep in a forest, miles from civilization, I stepped on an underground nest. Unlike the hornets, the yellowjackets only followed me about a hundred yards. By the way, this was probably my fastest hundred-yard dash, ever. The initial swelling was pretty bad, and I worried about passing out. But, by the time I got to a gas station to seek help, twenty minutes later, the swelling was already reducing. The remaining stinger marks made me look like I had measles. I think it was some species of less poisonous yellowjacket. Eighty-seven stings by any of the nasty boys would have been fatal.
Bumblebees 1978 – Twelve stings – disturbed a ground nest in the crawlspace of a dilapidated ruin, that I was inspecting for the best way to demolish it. An hour later the owner set fire to it, which he’d planned to do all along but never mentioned it to me. I wish I’d known before sticking my head in that crawlspace.
Deer – 1982 – came upon a doe, buck, and fawn in a clearing. Mother stayed with the fawn. Daddy chased me through the woods for about two hundred yards. Fortunately, we came to a field, and he wouldn’t cross the break line. But he kept rearing and kicking at me.
Fire Ants I’ve never been stung on the job by fire ants. I keep a close eye on the ground for mounds and trails. I have been with clients who were badly stung because they wandered around only looking up while imagining where their house would stand. You can’t do that with fire ants.
People who own neighboring property People are very protective of private property, and wary of unexpected strangers, and rightly so. Whenever I go solo to a home to measure for an addition, or land to select a home site, I always ask the client to tell the neighbors I’m coming.

1997, 1999, 2003 – Different locations, same danger. I was confronted by shotgun-wielding neighbors because I was standing, not on their land, but close enough to their property line to look like a trespasser. 1997 was an elderly man. 1999 was an elderly woman. 2003 was a young girl who was home alone and frightened. In all cases I explained who I was and why I was there. Then I left and made sure the client did a better job of clearing my next visit with the neighbors.

People who do illegal stuff – Pot Grower / meth maker / moonshiner I can lump all of these together because every individual situation involves me scouting property, then stumbling onto some sort of illegal activity, then the illegally active people being upset that I’m there.

2002 – Pot Grower with a shotgun – he had been smoking his product, so he was pretty mellow. He let me go, after I showed him that all I had was a tape measure and maps.

2001 – Meth Lab & Maker with a machine gun. I was trying to make him believe I was harmless, but not doing it well. A car came speeding down the dirt road, with the driver screaming, “They’re coming! They’re coming!” I didn’t know who was coming but everybody jumped in the car and sped away leaving me alone. I ran the other way.

2002 – Moonshine Still – The still had been recently blown up by the revenuers, but when I stumbled on the scene the “operators” were busy picking up the pieces. One pointed a rifle at me. I took out a business card, handed it to a man without a rifle, and said in my strongest southern drawl, “Puhlease cawll me when you all r’ up ‘n runnin’ ag’in. Ahm thursty.” They said OKAY and went back to work. I left slowly. They never called.

Wild Pigs – or boar hogs from hell, depending on who I’m talking to. 1984 – Scouting property in central Georgia, I surprised a family of wild pigs. The natural order of things says that they should have feared this man and run away. But, being uneducated pigs, they weren’t aware of the natural order, and the blasted rascals ran right at me. I was 31, nimble, spry, and fast, so I easily escaped.

1991 – Central Mississippi – Similar to the experience of ’84. I was 38, still nimble and spry, still fast, still got away.

Wild Dogs also 1984 – Central Alabama – Scouting land for a home site and stomping through dry underbrush, sounding like a marching elephant, because it was turkey hunting season. My noise attracted the attention of a pack of wild dogs. They weren’t very well organized and made just as much noise coming after me as I made getting their attention. Fortunately, I was still close to the truck, only a few hundred feet. Their snarling and barking gave me plenty of warning, and I easily made it back to safety.
Wild Hogs AND Wild Dogs 2003 – East Texas – Scouting land for a home site in the middle of four hundred acres of isolated property without a single tree, just short scrub bushes, tall grass, brier-thickets, and Plum saplings.  I was fifty years old, not so nimble or spry, not so fast. I came across a mother hog and a lot of hoglets. I ran. She chased, followed by her entire brood. She was gaining on me. I panicked and lost my way in the high bushes. Suddenly I was in a clearing. It was filled with sleeping dogs, wild ones. I kept going but didn’t know where. Momma Hog and family followed right through the clearing without slowing. When fresh meat crosses their clearing, wild sleeping dogs don’t lie. The dogs joined the chase. I was running, lost, and had no idea where I was headed. The hogs and dogs knew exactly where they were headed, which was wherever I was. There were no trees to climb for safety, just thorns and small stemmed saplings. I tore through the thorny underbrush, but it tore back, snagging jeans and shirt and skin and face and scalp. I was tiring, and started to think I might become the main course for a hog and dog supper club. Then, relief. The lead dog caught the last, straggling baby hog straggler. Momma hog heard her baby squeal, stopped, and turned to investigate. Glancing over my shoulder I saw hogs and dogs collide in a flesh tearing frenzy, that I knew would keep them all occupied long enough for me to get away. As I circled around to find my truck, the sounds of snarling and grunting and yelping and squealing filled the air, along with the smell of fresh blood. I remember being surprised that I smelled blood from that far away, until I realized it was mine. The thorns and thickets had torn me up. There were no deep cuts; just scratches, but lots of them.


Current Day : I just got a new commission for a deep-woods project in the middle of a southern river delta. Now, I’m seventy, decidedly non-nimble, the opposite of spry, and running fast is only a memory. From now on, I’m carrying a Glock.

So, there you have it. Now you know what to expect. Your career path will probably be a reflection of my natural-hazard highlights, though the details may vary. As you can see, along with being clever and creative, along with being a fearless entrepreneur and a financial wizard, along with serving God and Country and Clients and Family, you only have to worry about things that bite, or sting, or tear you to pieces from inside and out, or eat you alive, and other people who want you dead. Other than that, have fun!

Thank you,

Andy Bozeman

Andy Bozeman is the author of :






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