Fur Seal Violence
The article "The Art of Bullying" [August/September 1999] about fur seal behavior raised the question for me of whether seal heart attack rates have ever been studied. With the fighting that goes with territorial disputes and mating, I wonder if fur seal bullying can be an animal model of fighting and bullying among humans. Have there ever been any studies of fur seal heart attacks?
James Timothy Struck
Editor's note: There are no scientific studies showing that fur seals have died from, or even experienced, heart attacks. "I do not think investigation into the behavior of northern fur seals within the rookery setting will give any information into the violent behavior of humans," says biologist Terry Spraker, who has not found any evidence of stress-related cardiac malfunctions in fur seals during the 14 years he has studied the animals.
Chemical Free Solution
Regarding your article on better ways to deal with household pests ["What Pests Want in Your Home," August/September 1999], certainly chemical insecticides should be avoided wherever possible. One fast, efficient approach to getting rid of small ants, though, was not mentioned. Living in what may be the Argentine ant capital of the universe, I've discovered that by far the most effective way to deal with a massive invasion in your home is the good old vacuum cleaner (using a long nozzle attachment works best). It's easy, chemical free and 100 percent effective. Whether this "Hoover solution" will work on larger ants than the Argentine I don't know, but it seems worth a try.
San Diego, California
After reading your article, I recalled some years back when I read in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings about a captain of a destroyer who, upon finding roaches in the ship's galley, decreed that on his next inspection there would be no more roaches. And on his next inspection, there were no more roaches. It turns out that the galley staff had set out a mixture of flour and plaster of paris in jar lids, and that afterwards they had spent the week sweeping up paralyzed roaches. …