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

How to Build a Stone Wall in 14,863 Easy Steps

I realized long ago that you’re never really finished building a stone wall, even after you’ve dragged and hefted into place what seemed like the final boulder, exhaled mightily and stepped back to admire your work.

Just in Time for the Holidays: Fagin's Annual Gift Catalogue for the Discerning Outdoorsman and Outdoorswoman

How often does this happen to you: You’re merrily tearing through the woods in your four-wheeler and come to what looks like a shallow stream but turns out to be a deep, water-filled ditch, so your beloved machine sinks like a stone beneath...

Arduous Autumn

In spring we crawl out of our cocoons and celebrate bursting rejuvenation; in summer we play outside from dawn to dusk; during the dark, frigid winter we hunker down like hibernating bears – which leaves fall, when we try to set aside time...

Chain Saw? We Don't Need No Stinking Chain Saw…

So, did you hear that doctors have developed a new method of performing an appendectomy without using anesthesia? It’s exactly like the old operation, except it hurts like a son of a b.

You CAN Go Home Again: A Run Through My Old West Haven Stomping Grounds

Although for decades I’ve been living in a home surrounded by trees that is heated primarily by wood stoves, and I enjoy kayaking, mountain climbing, building stone walls, growing organic vegetables and many other active outdoor pursuits,...

Utah Rocks Part II: Kayaking Down The Colorado River

Propelled by a swift current on the Colorado River earlier this month, my son, Tom, and I gazed at red rock cliffs gleaming against an azure, near cloudless sky. The rustle of aspen and cottonwoods in a gentle breeze mingled with the rush of...

Utah Rocks: Adventures Among The Arches And The Rapids (Part I)

You know how it feels when you witness something so astonishingly exquisite and surreal it literally takes your breath away, and all you can do is gasp in amazement?

Oops. I Meant To Say, Whatever You Do, NEVER Try To Pose For A Selfie With Bear Cubs While Mama Grizzly Is Watching, And Other Corrections

• Alert readers have correctly pointed out a slight flaw in my instructions for the proper rock climbing command when you have unclipped from your rope. You should loudly announce, "Rappel off," not "On rappel."...

Use It Or Lose It: Trails Disappear If Nobody Hikes Them

Nature really hates a vacuum when it comes to paths.

Plunging Through Plum Gut And Bongo Sliding Through The Race In A Kayak: Maybe There Is Such A Thing As Too Much Fun

So a rabbi and a psychiatrist are kayaking in the ocean when a giant wave crashes over them and knocks the rabbi unconscious. The psychiatrist manages to pull the rabbi ashore, where he regains consciousness.

Once Again, Pink Gloves (Plus a Clever Signal) Help Save The Day At The Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon

"On your left!" Phil Warner shouted from the bow of a tandem kayak, racing toward a buoy during the paddle leg of last Sunday’s Josh Billings Runaground Triathlon in Lenox, Mass.

It's Swallow Time Again On The Connecticut River

Early Thursday evening was a magical time to paddle on the lower Connecticut River near Lyme.