Text by Bee reporter Andrea Gallo The sun baking the Sacramento Valley this summer is hot enough to make us think about how heat affects our lives in ways that might surprise you. Here are 10 things for you to keep in mind when the mercury spikes: 1. Insects take over It's not a bird. It's not a plane. It's a swarm of insects that has grown during the summer months. When temperatures range between 80 and 100 degrees, insects go through their life cycles more quickly, says UC Davis Entomology Professor Lynn Kimsey. Larvae quickly reach adulthood within a week or two, and female houseflies can lay 500 eggs in their lifetimes, which is why house flies become problematic in late summer and early fall, Kimsey said.
Bee file, 2010
2. Heat-safe slides Metal slides in playgrounds - once perched under the blinding sun - are now rare sights. Today's playground equipment is less heat-sensitive, and many playgrounds are built in shaded areas and under tree canopies, recreation experts say.
3. Pools get thirsty, too When temperatures soar, crystal-blue pools are more likely to turn green. Algae starts spreading and growing under the baking sun "like a greenhouse," making pools require more chlorine, says Best Pool Supply Inc.'s Jim Veach. A small temperature burst from 84 degrees to 90 degrees will make a pool need almost double its amount of chlorine, Veach said.
4. Cures pest problems Say goodbye to snails, slugs and other slimy creatures lingering around plants. Extreme heat sends them crawling and eliminates a lot of fungus, says Debbie Woodruff, owner of Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery. But pumpkins, tomatoes and cucumbers flourish. In high heat, the nursery waters two to three times daily.
Neudorff Natural Gardening
5. Hot cellphones The sun can melt your ice cream and fry your eggs, and it can also destroy your cellphone. Cellphones should not be left in direct sunlight or be placed in car trunks for long periods, says Jay Moller of MetroPCS. He said heat can leave phones – as intricate electronic instruments – permanently inoperable.
6. Drugs: Beware! Blazing temperatures mixed with alcohol, diuretics, beta blockers, anxiety medicines and tranquilizers can be dangerous, even deadly. Psychotropic drugs and alcohol can make people unaware of how hot they are, while beta blockers can slow heart rates and diuretics and alcohol can lead to dehydration, says Dr. Calvin Hirsch of the UC Davis Health System. Three inmates taking psychotropic drugs died of hyperthermia at Vacaville Medical Facility in 1991. Their deaths spotlighted how such drugs make people unaware of dangerously high body temperatures.
7. Tree branches break The "snap, crackle, pop" sound has moved out of your cereal bowl and into your trees. Extreme heat, combined with a lack of rain, can lead to tree branches breaking and falling, says Sean Barry, a spokesman for the Arbor Day Foundation. A tree normally sucks up water from the ground, but when the earth grows barren, a tree is left to hold onto its reserves and becomes heavier, and branches can break. The sun baking the Sacramento Valley is expected to hover at 100 degrees or more again today before cooling slightly the rest of the week. It's just hot enough to make us think about how heat affects our lives in ways that might surprise you.
8. Animal sensitivity Certain animals are more susceptible than others to heat extremes. Panting might not be a soothing noise, but it's the dog version of sweating and is necessary for them to cool down. Dogs with smashed faces, such as bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers, can't breathe as well in the heat because of the way their nasal passages are formed, according to Mueller Pet Medical Center. Pet owners should keep them inside and ensure they have water to drink.
9. Athletes' threshold UC Davis coaches plan practice times around the heat. On the East Coast, where humidity brews, an 80/80 test is used to determine if outdoor practices are safe: If the temperature is 80 degrees with 80 percent humidity or above, athletes aren't safe, says UC Davis athletic trainer Lisa Varnum. With little humidity here, she said the school relies on the air quality index, which ranks air from good to hazardous. Some team practices will continue when air is deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups, but athletes with asthma and other problems can sit out. Once air reaches the generally unhealthy mark, outdoor practices are called off or moved to cooler times of the day, like early morning.
10. Tires gain weight Yes, it's swimsuit season, but your tires aren't taking notice. Tires can gain up to 7 pounds when they heat up, says Advanced Tire Services owner Norm Madison. Despite the bloating, Madison said most tires are underinflated and the additional weight is not a cause for concern. Instead, a lot of his summer business comes from radiators and water pumps failing from the extreme heat. He warned that heat will push batteries on the verge of failing over the edge and old tires will shred from the warmth.