© 2020 Donna Hébert, all rights reserved.
So, amidst all the chat about glorious Cape Breton, perhaps it’s time to discuss the insect life up here. There are bugs, and they are large. There are also very small insects that manage to get through the screen. Most of them bite. Somewhere in the middle, there are pesky mosquitoes and what Bob calls “midges” and I call black flies, similar to when the butch Canadian weather service predicts “flurries” when what they actually mean is “probably under ten inches of snow.” So, I repeat, if it’s small, black, flies around, and bites me, it’s a damn black fly, right? I have several bites in places I shouldn’t have them. Really, hmm, never mind. And the middle of my big toe?
It’s late August, so we have fewer mosquitos, especially as it’s a dry year. Even the breeze blowing across the yard doesn’t quite protect me from black flies, but, annoying as they are, the deer and horse flies outrank them. Horse flies like to bite just before a storm. I knew this, having grown up near the woods. Deer flies just like to BITE, period. They hover over your head, just out of sight, often alighting there to scope out the territory. Little triangular stealth bombers.
If, like me, you have an exaggerated histamine response to bites, there are interesting ways to protect yourself from aerial attack. DEET and non-DEET sprays work with variable efficiency. Wearing a hat whenever I’m outside also helps. I even bought one of those floppy khaki LL Bean sunhats I swore I’d never be caught dead in. Upside is that it protects the back of my neck from attack and I can configure it to look like an Aussie when I get bored. I’ve looked for other protection online and found a variety of hilarious, ugly beyond words, and nastily effective prophylactic solutions.
The nasty first was a baseball cap with a sticky deer fly trap on the top of it. I approved of the idea – get them before they can bite you. But you just know I would have put my hand up there without thinking and, well, we can all picture me stompin’ my hat into the ground and screaming because they’re not dead – just stuck there and buzzing like hell!!!
Then there are the gentler solutions which don’t spray me with stuff that’ll strip the varnish off my fiddle or turn me into a human flytrap. I model and demonstrate two of them below. But allow me to digress for just a moment to make it clear that these are not actually laughing matters. The mosquitoes and black flies here in May, June and part of July are mighty. Prodigious blood suckers one and all, we are their food, a thin-skinned, walking smorgasbord. I stepped out of the car in northern Maine in May of last year for less than ten seconds and I almost couldn’t breathe or see for the black flies trying to fly into my mouth, up my nose, and into my eyes and ears.
There are true stories of trappers losing their minds in the northern wilderness, dying of blood poisoning from scratching the bites. Some were smart enough to follow the native practice of smearing rendered bear fat all over their bodies in biting fly season. I guess it must be kind of like garlic. You’d all have to use it to forget about the smell. This year at the very same spot in August (photo of Aurora ME marsh lookout), I saw no black flies, not even a mosquito.
I love to garden and would spend even more time doing it if bugs didn’t drive me inside. We looked in a lot of places and finally found exactly what we needed at the Inverness Co-op, a grocery, general store, sporting goods, hardware emporium, and garden centre in the middle of what was once a coal-mining town, with tunnels running out under the sea. Today, Inverness is a summer golfing and tourist destination with a beautiful accessible beach for the chair-bound, a gorgeous boardwalk, and glorious sunsets. While the Co-op veggie bin can be uninspiring in winter, you can almost always find whatever else you need there. I did, and it does the trick. So, so stylish, don’t you think? Tennis, anyone? It’s a AA-battery hand-held zapper. The final photo is for for light bug days!