By Marty Russell
Tick, tick, tick, tick … No, that’s not the sound of my watch or “60 Minutes” coming on TV. That’s how many ticks I’ve already found on me this year. It comes with the territory, the territory meaning living in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere.
Memorial Day has passed which means we are officially in the summer season although given the mild weather we’ve had so far this year that would be hard to tell except for the bugs. They’re everywhere. Summer would be a wonderful time of the year if not for them. Imagine if insects only came out in the winter when no one wants to be outside and we could enjoy the summers bug free.
But no, nature didn’t plan it that way because Mother Nature is a cruel mistress with a wicked sense of humor. Besides, bugs need to be fed and we’re on the menu.
I’m particularly susceptible to the bloodsucking varieties, not just ticks but mosquitoes and lawyers. I’ve tried just about every type of repellent that’s ever been made and none of them work, except the spray kind and then only on lawyers and only if you can hit them in the face with the spray and then run very fast.
I was in a home improvement store’s garden section the other day and saw a plant advertised as a mosquito plant. Upon closer inspection it turned out to be citronella, long touted as a mosquito repellent but one I’ve never found very effective unless you can get the mosquito to sit still and then hit it with the plant.
It’s a wonder we have survived as a species given that we’re outnumbered by insects by about 200 million to one, according to scientists. How did we survive living outdoors for most of our early existence? Apparently we were big smokers. Research has shown that early tribes burned various herbs, roots and witches – and even developed incense – to keep the bugs at bay.
Given that biting bugs, particularly mosquitoes, hone in on their prey (that’s us) by the carbon dioxide we exhale when we breathe, chances are the smoke itself just disguised our presence rather than anything in the smoke actually being effective. Even the witches.
Despite all our technological advances, about the only real protection we have against the bugs is protective clothing, mosquito netting and fly swatters. You can try not breathing when you go outside so they can’t detect you but that really sort of defeats the purpose.
So enjoy your summer and try not to let the bugs this year bug you. If it’s any consolation, next year, and even more so in 2015, we get the return of the 13-year cicadas to Mississippi. While they don’t bite they’re a lot bigger and uglier than the usual summer pests and about the only defense against them is a flamethrower.
MARTY RUSSELL writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.