Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bite me!

Summer is not my favorite season--there, I've admitted it. Deep down, I am really a cold weather person. And this summer has been particularly tough to handle--excessive heat with many more days than usual over 90. On top of that, we have had an outbreak of biting insects in our part of the world.

Central PA is known for our infamous black flies--some people call them gnats, but they are really small black flies. They are ubiquitous, and they bite. For years, our state ran a black fly spraying control program, using BT (so no chemical toxins). But with funding cutbacks, gradually the spraying program has been scaled back and then eliminated. And now the gnats flourish. And bite. Specifically me. They. . .bite. . .me!

This summer, every time I go outdoors, I come back inside with at least 2 to 4 bites. These bites itch like crazy--I grit my teeth and steel myself to NOT scratch, at least for 30 minutes. The histamine reaction that kicks up sets the itch control central on hyper-drive for about that long. If I can resist, I avoid spreading around the insect's poison, and thereby limit the histamine swollen area.

Now, we are experiencing an upsurge of mosquitoes (oh, great!) and there are more reasons for me to get bit.

I cannot fathom it--I get bit, and my husband does not, usually. I do try to carry along a handy Off clip-on fan. It has a little switch, a battery and a fan that blows Off in a cone of protection around me. OK--not really a cone. But anything helps.

So, I will soldier on through this summer, sweating in the heat, and itching from several bites every day.

If any of you gentle readers has a near-foolproof method to keep from being gnat and mosquito-bitten, please do tell.


Beverly said...

Ooh, I have no answer for that one. I remember when I was in Haiti and went to church, I always sat by one of my housemates because she was always bitten by whatever was on the benches, and I would come away without a bite.

NCmountainwoman said...

Sorry Donna, but if I knew of such a thing I would be rich. This hot humid weather has made for a bumper crop of insects. The Off gadget works if you are sitting, but not so well if you are moving around. Best advice I can give is to use After Bite as soon as you are bitten. It comes in a stick you can carry around in your pocket.

possumlady said...

Yes, yes, yes. A friend and I were just commenting that for us, summer is just a season to grit your teeth and get through. Hate, hate, hate the heat and humidity. Always feel like I'm in a fog.

Also agree with NCmountainwoman. The Off gadget works great if I'm sitting on my porch reading (actually it's been too hot all summer to even do that), but if I'm out mowing or walking around, it doesn't work so well.

A few leaves of my dogwood tree are turning...be still my heart.

Grizz………… said...

Donna, having spent much of my life—both professionally and personally—on lakes and streams, particularly in the northcountry, mosquitos and various biting flies have been a constant issue. I've tried everything in terms of sprays, lotions, creams, etc. and the only thing I've ever found to be effective has been products containing DEET. Nothing else I've used comes even close to protecting in real mosquito country. I know many steer away from DEET-containing products. In my experience, full-strength DEET isn't necessary; products with as little as 7% in their formula work, and work well. And I'm talking standing in the middle of a trout stream with not hundreds, or thousands, but literally millions of mosquitos flying around within a dozen yards—clouds of mosquitos, so dense you can have trouble seeing the streambank fifty feet away. Put the repellent on all exposed skin (I like creams) and wash it off when you come back inside.

It's also fairly effective on biting gnats, what I suspect you have rather than blackflies, which not only bite but carve out a neat little circle of flesh (so they can lap up the blood) from arms and legs, leaving a wound that turns into a sore. For genuine blackflies, you sometimes have to resort to gloves and head nets, and of course long sleeves and pants.

Anyway, that's my take on it—a tiny daub of DEET against mosquitos and biting gnats, full combat protective gear, including head net, face shield, and perhaps a flack jacket for blackflies—or just hide indoor until cold weather. (BTW, I suggest small-caliber firearms for dealing effectively with deerflies, and full retreat with horseflies.)

Oh…it's not uncommon that mosquitos bother one person more than another; they do seem to have preferences. In the tropics, you often hear it suggested that a daily dose of vitamin E helps in keeping an individual from being overly attractive.

Anonymous said...

Wish I had a good solution for you, Donna. But I just don't. I will tell you that there are a couple of iPhone apps that claim to keep mosquitos away. (Yes, there's an app for that!) I hate hot summer, too. And, mosquitos really come after me, too. Hate them! I can't even imagine black flies. :D

Jayne said...

It's been too hot to even sit outside here. We had 30+ days of >90 degrees, and it is still in the high 80's. I agree with Grizz... sadly, noting like DEET products to keep them fully away, but like you, the thought of slathering that on my skin is not appealing either. I suppose the silver lining is that fall and cooler temps will be here soon.

Anonymous said...

My husband loves his fan! He puts it on his lap while he's sitting out on the deck and says it does a good job for him.

We have mosquitoes, redbugs, and noseeums, the latter so obnoxious, they must be the outdoor equivalent of a bedbug. They get in your hair and bite, but you can't see 'em.

Last year we had a bat. I was hoping he'd bring his fiends this year.

I don't think Earl is going to help the situation.

Nance said...

My research turned up this article from the Wall St. Journal (nice to know they publish SOMETHING I can use!):

Anvilcloud said...

I didn't know that blackflies lived down thataway. I thought they were only at home in more northerly forests.

SylvanB said...

Late to the party - I just found your very entertaining blog via Murr.

About bugs, though - I carry a stick of Afterbite on my person from May to first frost. All it is, is ammonia; it's the delivery system you pay for. Applied immediately (and repeatedly) it literally takes the sting out, and the itch.