Enduring those nasty biting bugs

There are many sappy clichés about reaching for the sky, but I doubt any originated in Northwestern Ontario at this time of year.
We’re too busy swatting.
It’s normal behaviour–the waving and slapping. Right now, we’re especially dealing with deer flies and horse flies (locally known as bull dogs).
Then each evening, just as these larger bugs start to fade, there’s an onslaught of mosquitoes and no-see-ums.
But I’m not complaining. We’re conditioned to grin and bear biting critters in this part of the country—even though it feels like dozens of tiny jet fighters burn holes into our necks and limbs.
We enjoy the brazen sunsets and cool waters; bugs are just the price of admission. It’s interesting to keep up on the research, however.
For example, if you like cold beer in the heat of summer, you might find the latest study about mosquitoes by the IRD Research Centre interesting. Apparently beer drinkers are 15 percent more likely to receive bites.
Who knew these insects have such evolved taste buds?
This knowledge adds to previous studies. For example, apparently those who expose themselves regularly to mosquitoes suffer less than others. Outdoor types build up a resistance to mosquito’s itching saliva.
But there are more practical ways to avoid bites than skipping beer and marauding in the deep forest.
For horse and deer flies, wear light-coloured clothing, especially if it’s a hat. The bugs are visual, and are attracted to dark moving objects.
Also, avoid horse and deer flies by going outside on cooler days, and dry off after swimming and sweating. Biters are most active when it’s hot, and are attracted to the sleekness of wet skin.
Otherwise, keep your skin covered. Horse flies target mostly ankles compared to deer flies, which are attracted to the upper body, especially the arms, neck, and head.
And since deer flies are not highly-affected by bug spray, consider attaching the increasingly popular sticky patch to the back of your hat. It’s amazing what it traps.
But don’t expect the pesky woe-hoards to give up. Recently, I found myself dueling one using a large package of toilet paper. The buzzer-brain circled so persistently, it eventually managed to chomp a bite.
Sometimes, it almost seems as though these insects are super dynamos. In fact, according to the history books, mosquitoes even have protected entire countries from takeovers. Citizens with a built-up resistance to mosquito-carrying disease prevailed over invading troopers who suffered from malaria.
And, in a weird way, mosquitoes even protect natural environments. For example, not too many people are brave enough to tramp through delicate marshlands at this time of year.
It’s a stretch on the bright side of things, I know. But these are examples of the powers of pests. And that’s without considering the bug’s importance in the food chain, granting nourishment for birds, dragonflies, and bats.
Yes, even what drives us crazy provides value in nature.
Horse flies, deer flies, and mosquitoes aren’t the best part of what we’re about, but they do symbolize our unique resilience as northerners.
In a way, they accurately represent who we are as occupants of a sparse and rugged land–worthy of notice, and brimming with might.

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