Those of us who live on the east coast are used to the wind. We get plenty of it. Sometimes blowing in off the ocean in the form of tropical storms and the occasional hurricane, toppling trees or just taking their tops off. Sometimes coming from the other direction as infamous Nor’Easters that can bring snow and ice storms. Most of the time though it arrives in the form of a pleasant breeze that helps keep us cooler than other parts of the country. And better yet, helps keep the black flies at bay.
Less than twenty minutes outside the city, and where I live, is black fly country. They arrive mid May and can stick around until the end of June. They can make outdoor life unbearable. Black flies, along with every other biting insect that I have ever encountered, love to feast on me. Years ago while camping in Algonquin Park, The Doc and I attended an outdoor lecture that started with this question: did you ever notice that bugs seem to like some people more than others?
…You’re damn right, I noticed.
The Doc could spend all day outdoors, in the woods, fishing by rivers, trudging through fields or working in the yard, and never see a welt. I, on the other hand, well I am a bug’s favourite food. Once, over thirty years ago, while canoeing in the middle of the summer, I was bitten over twenty times on my bare feet by deer flies that wouldn’t leave me alone. I tried to cover my feet while The Doc paddled back to shore but to no avail. The result was a reaction that caused me to miss four days of work, during which time my employer thought I was faking. They didn’t believe what I told them, at least not until they saw my appearance when I finally returned. Something about my still partially swollen feet and my bloodshot eyes finally convinced them.
The lecture at Algonquin Park explained that some people’s blood smells sweeter than others, making these people a more desirable target for blood-seeking insects. Who would have thought that something about me would be sweet? If there was a way, I would have traded my sweet blood for sweeter disposition; but that wasn’t an option.
Back to black fly season. It is also prime gardening season, but I do not have a problem staying indoors and leaving some things until later in the summer when the black flies finally leave. I usually do this every year. But because of this practice, some aggressive summer phlox have taken over a very large area of my garden. What started as three small clumps of phlox is now a hillside of phlox. They have strangled out most of my cone flowers, astilbes, lupines, bee balm and other things that also call this slope home. My usual let-nature-take-its-course attitude has given the phlox too much leeway. Digging up this slope is a job that needs to be done before everything grows too big to handle or step around, so I have to go outside in black fly season. Going outside in black fly season takes mental priming and perfect timing. Both are currently rare.
Get a bug jacket they said… Oh I have a bug jacket. It is the most claustrophobic thing going. There is nothing worse than having twenty-five black flies crawling up a mesh screen just in front of your face, something that made me want to scream and wish I was naked. Instead I spray. I am very generous with the spray. It is the only time I get up close and personal with something smelly. I spray my hair, which I tie back, and my hat. I spray my hands to rub all over my face and ears and neck. They love my neck. They love to turn it into a four-course meal. Then I cover the rest of me, from neck down, with long sleeves, long pants and heavy socks.
Black flies are persistent little buggers that are intent on feasting on some part of my body so they never give up. They swarm my head by the hundreds hoping for an opportunity, maybe an exposed collarbone that was missed during spraying. Perhaps a wrist between my glove and my shirt when my sleeve rides up. The point is that they never give up so even though they don’t get an opportunity to bite me, they drive me crazy. The incessant buzzing and my continuous swatting takes all the joy out of being outside in the garden or outside any where else for that matter. I last about an hour and a half, then go inside to shower off the bug spray and hope like hell that tomorrow the damn wind will show up.
Thanks for reading.
Photo: clipart-library.com and kissclipart.com (Not for commercial use)