I have 37 bug bites.
I’m gonna let that sink in for a moment. 37.
You know, when I planned to move to New England, I was warned about the bug populations. I heard horror stories of blood sucking demon flies, vampiric mosquito swarms, preying ticks and aggressive hornets and bees. And those were just the day time stories, not including the terror of night time creepy crawlies (I’ll spare you).
Last summer, I was prepared for the worst. I stocked up on DEET (side effects shmide effects, I was not getting bit). As it turned out, 2013 was not a bad year for bugs. I made it through August without so much as an itchy patch. “Eastern bugs are no problem,” I thought, “This year will be just fine.”
Wrong. The bugs are back, and making up for lost time.
After a bit of research I’ve discovered why my propensity for being bitten has increased so much this year. From what I’ve discovered, I am the Lucy Westenra to Eastern bugs’ Count Dracula, and if my calculations are correct, I’m going to need a little more DEET.
Let’s start with mosquitos. According to Bill Gates and the internet, squiters are the world’s biggest killer of humans, beating humans themselves, through malaria and other bite infections. In particular, what draws mosquitos is odor. If you omit high levels of CO2, can’t control your body odor, O blood types and lactic acid buildup, you’ll likely attract mosquitos.
So, basically, if you’re an athlete, don’t stop running or you’ll die.
Next comes ticks. Prior to arriving East, my conception of ticks consisted of wives tales of them falling out of Northwestern pines and living in your hair. Whether or not that has actually happened in Spokane has yet to be confirmed, but the idea of a tick was somewhat mystical to me. Not in Vermont. Here, ticks are the real deal.
Due to more mild winters the last five years (thank you, climate change), tick populations have exploded in the northern states. Vermont boasts the second highest rate of lyme disease in the nation, while counties in Southern Vermont (aka where I live) have the highest tick populations in the USA (at least we’re #winning). Luckily, I have no vanities about high socks and keep my legs (relatively, kind of, mostly) well shaven during the summer, but I will never look at high grassy areas the same. This packet is helpful, and I’ve never been more game to tuck my pants into my socks than I am after reading it.
And then there are the flies. The blood sucking, life draining, maniacal, aggression-fed black horse flies. Some are quite, sneaky, and attack before you even know they’re there. Others buzz and swoop, making just enough noise to warn you of their existence, scoping you out, planning their route but disappearing just when you try to find them. The moment that you do, they lift off from their bite leaving a solitary trickle of blood. Ninja bugs. The females are the ones who suck blood, so they are blinded by maternal instinct and know how to manipulate and trick their victims until too late (excuse the stereotypical indulgence). They also aren’t deterred by DEET. In fact, they feed off of it, like the evil machines in The Incredibles who get more powerful the more you fight them.
All that aside, the east doesn’t have a problem with bees, which is good for me. I’m allergic to bees, the kind of allergic that makes my dad worry when I go on runs by myself. I say this now, but I haven’t had any negative experiences with these guys since I’ve been out here, our relationship seems to be happily symbiotic (for me and bees, it’s really one or the other, we both live or we both die). That being said, I still always carry my EpiPen. And DEET.
Stay safe and remember there’s no better present than a hydrocortisone gift package!