MARTHA SEZ: ‘Even if you can’t see them, you will definitely feel their bite’

as i sit here typing in lower case — my left hand is holding an ice pack to my neck — i am thinking, perforce, about blood-sucking bugs. the ice helps but only so long as you’re holding it firmly on the affected area. an ice pack is not a cure. it numbs the nerves and reduces inflammation. briefly.

All right, I’m only supposed to keep the ice pack on for 10 minutes at a time.

Itching, intolerable, all-consuming and sleep-defeating as it can be, does have the virtue of taking the mind off other things, things that might be considered more important by people fortunate or provident enough to have avoided gardening early in the morning or early in the evening.

Full-on blackfly attacks are worst at, but not limited to, dusk and dawn. Right now it is hard for me to think about anything else.

I’m not the only one. I ran into a friend at the farmers market in Keene Valley who told me she was so swarmed by biting insects — blackflies and mosquitoes and probably no-see-ums — the previous evening she was forced to quit watering her vegetable seedlings and go inside.

I heard from another friend that no-see-ums have been entering her house in the wee hours of the morning and biting her and her husband as they sleep. No-see-ums are smaller than blackflies, so small they can pass through the mesh of a screen door.

No-see-ums are biting flies barely visible to the naked eye. Even if you can’t see them, you will definitely feel their bite. These pesky little bugs can inflict a lot of pain. They love warm weather and water.

My sister, who lives in Michigan, is also a gardener, and she told me the bugs are worse this year than she has ever seen — or felt — them. She said she hopes that the biting bugs are not one more unavoidable consequence of global climate change.

While the biting flies may be easily confused with each other, mosquitoes are family Culicidae, blackflies, sometimes called Buffalo gnats, are simuliidae family, and no-see-ums, or biting midges, are family Ceratopogonidae.

Of all of these biting flies, only the females bite and take blood from humans and other animals.

The blackfly is famously endemic to the Adirondacks. This is because we have cold, clean, running rivers and streams. Blackfly larvae need oxygen and are intolerant of pollution. An Ohio Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet stated that, In the No-Good-Deed-Goes-Unpunished category, the blackfly populations increased when Ohio streams were cleaned up.

Pestiferous pesky pestilential little creatures have been tormenting humans since the dawn of time. Were they in the Garden of Eden, I wonder?

I was googling blood-sucking insects, looking for some way to relieve my blackfly symptoms, when I stumbled across an article in the “American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene” about a study that reveals lice infested the ancient inhabitants of the Near East.

Scientists identified several species of louse nits from ancient graves. Some of the louse remains are 10,000 years old, but so well preserved that the scientists were able to use them to trace the migrations of ancient tribes.

“Lice are among the oldest parasites of humans representing an excellent marker of the evolution and migration of our species over time,” the abstract stated.

The article is very interesting but I don’t recommend it, because reading it may make you itchy. The mere mention of the word lice is enough to make my head itch at any time.

Did you know that houses where bats live can be infested with bat bugs, similar to bed bugs, after the bats leave? This is one of the creatures author Amy Stewart gossips about in her book “Wicked Bugs,” letting us know that bat bug males engage in traumatic insemination, a mating practice that entails piercing the female’s abdomen to inject semen into her bloodstream. Sex-crazed males do the same to other males. These bugs cannot be studied under laboratory conditions where they are unable to hide from each other because eventually they are all perforated so much they die off.

Bat bugs, family Cimicidae, are insects that infest colonies of roosting bats. They may move into human living areas and may bite people. Such migrations are particularly common when bats migrate or are eliminated from the building. However, in the absence of the bat hosts, these insects cannot sustain and reproduce.

Watch out for bugs, and have a good week.

(Martha Allen, of Keene Valley, has been writing for the Lake Placid News for over 20 years.)

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