Wildlife: A Buggy Time of Year

  • Thu Jul 30th, 2020 11:03am
  • Life
No see ums …but you feel ums!

No see ums …but you feel ums!

By Pat Neal

We’d like to tell our tourist visitors that there are no bugs on the Olympic Peninsula, but it’s a sin to tell a lie and they’ll find out the truth soon enough on their own. The first bug you notice is the smallest, the No-see-um. You might not think a bug so small could be a bother but you would be wrong.

These tiny, almost invisible insects can occur in swarms so thick they make breathing difficult. They get in your eyes and ears while biting you, sucking your blood and leaving patches of itchy welts all over your hide. Maybe it is our unusually wet summer but the mosquitoes seem to be larger than normal. It’s like they are evolving into a new species of bloodsucking bird. Some of this year’s mosquito crop are big enough to shoot with a shotgun but that is a desperate measure that could be risky in a crowded campground. It would be a futile effort anyway. You’d run out of shells before you ran out of mosquitoes.

In the heat of the afternoon sun, you’re liable to forget all about the mosquitoes once the black-flies hit. They are a little black bug about the size of a housefly with one big difference. Blackflies bite. Still, none of our insect pests can match the deer fly for sheer evil genius. Though a deerfly is larger than the biggest housefly they are able to fly silently, land lightly and start feeding immediately.

Once a deer fly gets you in its sights your little outdoor outing just took a turn for the worse. That’s because there is seldom just one of the little devils. They hunt in teams that wear down the victim. So, when you take off your hat to swat a deerfly, chances are another one will bite you on your bare head. When you try to hit the fly biting your head with your hat, the first one you swatted is back in the air. Deer flies can take a punch and come back for more.

The deerfly circles until they can approach you from behind. That’s when you need the buddy system, someone to watch your back. I once saw some cranky campers who were swatting each other with tree branches to keep the deerflies off each other. The bugs were fierce. The tree branches kept getting bigger until the booze hit and the campers were beating each other with clubs.

Squashing one of these engorged bloodsuckers is a disgusting experience that is not for the faint-hearted. Just remember, it’s you or the bug. Chances are you’ll do the right thing.

As the summer progresses, we are faced with another insect pest worse than all the others combined, the bald-faced hornets and yellow-jackets. Right about now the hornets and yellow jackets are approaching their prime. Their underground nests along hiking trails are getting mighty tired of getting stomped on by waffle-stomping granola crunchers.

The first hiker down the trail can usually skate by without incident but by then the bees are awake and ready to attack anything that moves. So, they do. It is a wonder of nature thing. Watching people do the hornet dance down the trail while screaming,

“Bees!”

As autumn approaches the nests can be the size of a-watermelon with hundreds of bees coming and going. Hitting the nest with a lawnmower or other noisy power toy is even more fun. that can activate the swarm into an unforgettable attack mode. All of which confirms the belief that this is a buggy time of year.