This Best of Bogue column originally was published Jan. 3, 2001.

Dear Gary: I recently bought a 1972 Oldsmobile. While overhauling the engine, I met an extremely large black widow who was living in the car's frame.

I was flat on my back putting the transmission pan back on when she came out and hung upside down about 3 inches from my head. I am still having nightmares about this.

What's the best way to remove her and possible family members?

Also wondering if they can really jump, or is that a myth?

Mike

Berkeley

DEAR MIKE: Black widows aren't jumpers but they can certainly fall. That's why it's not good to have one hanging over your face.

These spiders live in dark places, and an old car that's been sitting around has a lot of dark nooks and crannies to hide them.

Why don't you check "Steam Cleaning Automotive" in the Yellow Pages and take the Olds in for a hot "shower"? That should clean things up.

DEAR GARY: Looking at my weedy garden a few days ago, I started pondering the use of snail bait for slugs and snails, and "Preen," pre-emergent weed killer granules, for unwanted green leafy growths.


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Do most backyard birds know the difference between Preen granules, snail bait and real edible seeds?

In one area, stray seeds from the bird feeders fall in the same vicinity where I was considering using these poisons.

I don't want to be responsible for any bird deaths, but I know these two products must be pretty widely used in garden areas.

Do you know of any impact on birds?

Jackie

Martinez

DEAR JACKIE: Wild birds don't spend much time reading the fine print on the boxes of poisons that we scatter around our yards.

Unfortunately, neither do many of us humans.

I haven't seen any studies on the side-effects of these granular poisons on backyard wildlife, but some have warning labels that list them as poisonous or dangerous to wildlife.

If you feed wild birds in your yard, I wouldn't use these chemical granules. The birds might confuse them with seeds and eat them. If you have a dog or cat, you definitely need to worry about them, too.

For the first week or two after spring arrives, I diligently harvest snails and slugs by hand and pull weeds.

It works for me.

DEAR GARY: We received a beautiful cedar birdhouse for Christmas.

When we brought it home, our cat went berserk. She rubbed up against it, sat on top of it and tried to get inside it.

Does cedar affect cats the same way catnip does?

If we put it outside for the birds, will she still be crazy about it?

Cherie

San Ramon

DEAR CHERIE: Pungent smells (cedar, eucalyptus, citrus, perfumes, cleaning agents such as Hexol, and so forth) will make some cats a little, well, berserk. It's not quite the same as catnip, but almost.

Putting the birdhouse outside will probably make it lose some of its heady appeal to your cat when the cedar oils in the wood start to dry out.

It wouldn't hurt to post a little note by the front door explaining the situation to prospective tenants, just in case.

Gary Bogue has retired after 42 years of writing this column. Reruns are published Tuesdays. If you have animal-related questions, contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.