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

Take A Hike Or A Paddle June 6-7 During Connecticut Trails Weekend

In a culture that celebrates virtually every pastime and passion – from National Kazoo Day Jan. 28 to Public Sleeping Day Feb. 28 to Moldy Cheese Day Oct. 9 – we outdoor enthusiasts finally get our day in the sun on June 6,...

A Fourth Straight Victory At The Essex Boat Race in Massachusetts: Paddling In A Small Division Pays Off

As Ian Frenkel and I paddled exuberantly toward the finish line last Saturday at the Essex River Race in Essex, Mass., I thought about what it had taken to pull off our fourth consecutive tandem sea kayaking victory.

Hiking The Continental Divide Trail From Mexico To Canada: 'It Is Fun Even When It's Miserable'

Applying the ancient Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," Mystic native Hilary Sueoka and her boyfriend, Dan Stedman, should have taken three steps April 22 when they set out on their...

Turtles And Osprey And Otters, Oh My – So Much To See By Kayak

The turtle has an ill-deserved reputation for lethargy.

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Dirt Bikes

Fingernails across a chalk board, a baby crying, a dog barking incessantly – all are music to my ears compared to the whine of a dirt bike tearing through the forest.

Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Even Elizabeth Warren All Have Something In Common: The Black SUV

Here’s how ABC News reported an appearance last week by former Florida Gov. Bush, who is considering a bid for the Republican presidential nomination:

A Snowy Hike To Carter Notch In New Hampshire's White Mountains

Midway up the staggeringly steep Wildcat Ridge Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains earlier this week, after my son, Tom, and I had postholed up to our knees 487 times through rotten snow despite wearing snowshoes, we began...

Ah, Spring: Moving Rocks, Lugging Logs, Digging Holes And Other Fun Activities

A 3-foot-high mound of snow still stubbornly piled beneath the deck serves as a grim reminder of this past winter’s relentless brutality, and of the months spent shoveling, shoveling, shoveling.

A Short But Sweet Eagle-Watching Season On The Lower Connecticut River

The hummingbird hovers, sparrow flutters, tern dives, duck flaps frenetically, but in the avian world the eagle soars majestically, barely moving its enormous wings while wheeling effortlessly through the heavens.

A Grand Canyon Gondola Ride – What An Idea! How About A Tram Up Mount Everest?

I don’t know about you, but I was extraordinarily excited to hear about plans to build a gondola tram that would take visitors 1.6 miles to the floor of the Grand Canyon in 10 minutes – way faster and less strenuous than...

The Magic and Misadventures of Making Maple Syrup

The instant the whirring drill bit pulled free from the trunk of a maple tree behind our house the other morning a splendid stream of sap began oozing before I had a chance to pound a metal spile into the half-inch-wide hole.

A Tough Time For Deer, But Elephants Finally Catch A Break (Sort Of)

Traipsing on snowshoes the other day through, over and around waist-high drifts in the woods behind our house I crossed a veritable superhighway of deer tracks that meandered among the rhododendron, laurel, pine, spruce and fir, and...