Ticks, Slugs, Skeeters, Wasps and Other Critters I Can Do Without

After my morning run and swim the other day I prepared for a relaxing respite on the deck and carried out a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit, a can of club soda and the latest issue of The New Yorker.

Plopping down on my favorite Adirondack chair, I carefully balanced the bowl and can on the wide chair arm, and flipped to the cartoon contest on the back page, which I always look at first before reading the table of contents. Birds chirped merrily, the sun shone brightly, a gentle breeze rustled the oaks.

My reverie lasted about 2.67 seconds.

Wham! Out of nowhere a whiteface hornet dive-bombed my arm with its stinger, causing me to leap out of the chair, knock over the bowl and can, and shout a few colorful phrases that for our purposes can be translated to: “Gosh darn it, you nasty bug, I wish you hadn’t done that.”

In another 2.67 seconds my arm throbbed as if I had shot it with a nail gun loaded with a 16-penny 4-incher dipped in hydrochloric acid, and then swelled up to the size of William “The Refrigerator” Perry’s quadriceps.

This would have been unpleasant enough if I hadn’t, just the day before, found a deer tick embedded in a place most people would prefer to be free of latching arachnids.

And the day before that I had strolled out to the garden and discovered slugs had chewed up all three dozen of the basil plants I had tenderly placed in the ground while visions of pesto pizza danced in my head.

In short, it’s been a typical season under siege by insects.

Let me be clear: I’m not complaining. Those of us who savor the great outdoors realize you have to take the yin with the yang — in order to savor a glorious adventure on a mountaintop or the high seas, or simply sit on the deck, you often have to endure a biblical plague of mosquitoes, black flies, no-seeums and other flying, crawling, stinging pests. It comes with the territory.

Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of insecticides and bug-repellent clothing, with mixed results. The most effective deterrent is N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, abbreviated as DEET, which most commercial insecticides contain in varying concentrations, but health authorities warn of potential side-effects ranging from nerve damage to, in extremely rare cases, death. Given the choice I’d rather swat the malefactor with a rolled-up New Yorker magazine.

I’m not big on folk remedies, but while I was out running a few months ago a car pulled alongside me and the driver rolled down the window to advise me, “Hey, the next time you’re out camping, try smearing yourself with Vicks VapoRub. No mosquitoes!”

So far this year the skeeters haven’t been too bad, so I haven’t had a chance to test this suggestion. It does remind me, though, of Avon Skin So Soft treatment that was all the rage a few years ago.

I dutifully slathered on gallons of the lotion before venturing into the woods, and still managed to contract Lyme Disease, not to mention experience near-exsanguination from skeeters, black flies and other blood-suckers. On the positive side, I had smooth and radiant skin all summer.

While kayaking the other day with my buddy Bob Carlson, he reminded me of an ill-fated canoe trip we made to the Canadian wilderness, when the mosquitoes and black flies were so relentlessly horrific we dove into a murky lake in desperation.

This seemed to work, until we emerged from the water covered in leeches, like Humphrey Bogart in that disgusting scene from “The African Queen.”

So at least as far as bugs go, things could always be worse.

Look on the bright side: Here in New England we don’t have scorpions, Brazilian fire ants or tarantulas — yet.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Brace Yourself For The New Year’s Day Run-Swim

When those uninitiated in the longstanding New Year’s Day tradition of running from Mystic to Fishers Island Sound and leaping into the icy water ask, "How can you stand it? Doesn’t it hurt?" we stoic veterans...

Two's Company, Three Hundred's A Crowd – On The Trail Or On A Sidewalk

While kayaking the 341-mile Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany a few years ago I spotted another paddler a mile or so away headed in my direction. Having encountered only one or two other kayaks nearly a week into what turned out to be an...

Wouldn't It Be Wonderful To Hibernate?

When I pried a rock up with a mattock the other day, rushing to finish a small retaining wall before the ground froze, I inadvertently disturbed a hibernating spotted salamander’s winter home.

Happy Days Are Here Again: Cheap Fuel And Gas-Guzzlers!

Isn’t life great?! Gas is so cheap now I can get rid of my puny, poky, fuel-efficient econobox and get behind the wheel of an auto with plenty of ponies under the hood that any American would be proud to drive, just like the good...

Siri To The Rescue!

"Siri, how much farther to the summit?"

A-hunting We Will Go

Blam! Blam! Blam!

Urban Excursions: Finding Adventure In The Big City

A brisk autumn breeze scattered crimson maple leaves that fluttered from trees lining a pond glittering in the morning sun as my friend Bob Graham and I loped along a narrow path the other morning.

My Friend The Log Splitter: Leaf Blowers Notwithstanding, Not All Machines Are Evil

After my overwhelming victory last year in a rake vs. leafblower contest I hoped I’d heard the last of those infernal, noisy, polluting contraptions — but while out for a run the other day, savoring the fall foliage, a familiar whine as...

Welcome To Steve's Lumberjack Camp

Good morning! I hope you all had a good night’s sleep, enjoyed the griddle cakes and are eager to work off those calories.

At Nayaug Canoe And Kayak Race, A Win Is A Win Is A Win — Sort Of

Race starts are notoriously adventurous — jackrabbits at the line itching to shove and elbow their way into the lead; clueless slowpokes poised for pileups; nerve-jangled competitors, fueled by surging adrenaline, chattering...

Rocks In My Head, Part 37,482

Descending New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in a blizzard some time ago, a friend and I briefly strayed from the ice-encrusted Lion Head Trail – not all that surprising considering wind-whipped snow reduced our visibility to...

Hey, Unless Your Head Is Made Of Cement, Wear A Bike Helmet!

Last Saturday was glorious, perhaps the last sunny, warm day of the season, so a couple friends and I set out for a 50-plus-mile ride on Rhode Island’s magnificent East Bay Bike Path, one of my favorite places to pedal.

How to freeze your - - - off in four easy steps

I know you’ll find this rather shocking, but all those white things in the new picture of me aren’t really snowflakes – they’re feathers from an old pillow, which we thought would be a clever way to illustrate a...

Hey, Unless Your Head Is Made Of Cement, Wear A Bike Helmet!

Last Saturday was glorious, perhaps the last sunny, warm day of the season, so a couple friends and I set out for a 50-plus-mile ride on Rhode Island’s magnificent East Bay Bike Path, one of my favorite places to pedal.