Tom and the mosquito factory

By Tom Seymour | Jul 07, 2017
Photo by: Tom Seymour Tom fights the never-ending war against biting insects.

Many years ago I took a friend trout-fishing on a mosquito-ridden stream. We caught lots of fish, but the mosquitoes were thicker and fiercer than anything we had ever seen. Soon afterward, my pal dubbed the place “The Mosquito Factory.”

My Waldo home comes in a close second to that long-lost mosquito haven. Surrounded by woods and quite damp, every biting insect in Maine lives here. But my situation is not unique, and for certain others experience the same degree of discomfort every time they leave the house. So for those readers engaged in battling mosquitoes and other biting insects, here are some helpful hints.

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes not only steal our blood, they make the most annoying, high-pitched buzzing sound when they do it. At least black flies are relatively silent.

The only way to guarantee that mosquitoes won’t bite is to bathe every exposed inch of skin with insect repellent. I use repellents containing D.E.E.T not only to keep mosquitoes off of my poor hide, but also to repel disease-carrying ticks. But it isn’t good to leave such repellent on for any length of time, so it is necessary to bathe upon going back inside. And that’s a real nuisance.

Some people wear headnets and others go all the way and wear full-body suits of insect netting. But it’s hard to see through mesh and that takes away much of the enjoyment of being outdoors. There is an easier way. And that is to wear long pants, long sleeves, and when headed out on a drizzly, buggy day, just wear a light nylon hooded windbreaker. Cinch the hood tightly so mosquitoes can’t get in and bite your neck and also, if the windbreaker is so equipped, tighten it up around the waist to make a snug fit.

Then, even the non-D.E.E.T. insect repellent is sufficient for hands and face. Mosquitoes can’t penetrate the tightly-woven nylon barrier and ticks can’t get a purchase, either. And when the sun comes out and temperatures rise, mosquitoes become far less of a problem.

However, in some shady, damp locations, mosquitoes never go away and that is the reason I carry my windbreaker even on hot, sultry days. Better to sweat a little rather than to suffer numerous mosquito bites.

Back in the 1970s I read that daily intake of vitamin B would help repel mosquitoes. The accepted method was to take a dose of brewer’s yeast every day. After a week or so, our body would exude vitamin B through the pores. I tried this regimen and found it to be at least partially effective. But somehow it doesn’t work for everyone, so it’s a matter of try it and then wait and see.

For those who can afford them, propane-powered mosquito traps work well. But large properties require several units and even after getting over the purchase price, using propane is a fairly expensive way to control mosquitoes.

For a final note on mosquitoes, I made sure to use sheetrock, rather than wood paneling, when building my new bedroom. Mosquitoes have a way of sneaking inside, despite all precautions, and somehow they always manage to find their way into the bedroom. There is nothing more maddening and annoying than to be awakened in the wee hours by a whining mosquito. What’s even worse is to not be able to find the critter. But with white-painted sheetrock, the troublesome insects stand out like a sore thumb.

So make sure to not leave doors open for any longer than it takes to go in and out. And keep a fly swatter and a can of insect spray handy. We’ll never win the war on mosquitoes, but we can at least keep them at bay.

Deerflies

If we can compare mosquitoes to tiny helicopters, then deerflies are the insect equivalent of jumbo jets. These nasty, buzzing fiends take up orbits around our heads. And on hot, sunny days when mosquitoes lie low, deerflies really gear up for action.

When working in the woods in my younger days, I always coated my hardhat with vegetable oil. The pesky deerflies would buzz my head and when they landed on the hardhat, the oil would hold them fast. But other than when working with a chainsaw, who wants to wear a hardhat?

Here again, a cap, long-sleeved pants and shirt will cut down significantly on deerfly bites. Even so, deerflies can sometimes bite through untreated clothing, unless it is fairly thick. So it is necessary to spray insect repellent not only on exposed skin, but also on clothing. And for those who have never suffered a bite from one of these savage insects, deerflies don’t just bite, they tear a hole in the flesh. After that, the affected area swells and begins to itch. Then, with repeated scratching, the wound can become infected.

Deerflies terrorize moose and deer to the point that the animals go berserk, often running blindly out on roads just to escape their tormentors. Consequently, animal/vehicle accidents occur, all because of deerflies.

Given the amount of discomfort caused by deerfly bites, I dress accordingly and even keep my collar up in order to discourage deerflies from landing on my neck and biting it.

There is also a rather rewarding way to combat deerflies. Those electric “bug zappers,” the kind that resemble badminton racquets, are very effective. The trick is to intercept the deerfly in its orbit. Deerflies describe regular circles as they buzz around a person’s head. So by timing the insect’s path as it makes its circle, raise the bug zapper up and with a mighty backhand, nail it with the grid face of the racquet. A direct hit produces a loud “snap,” and a rewarding sound it is.

Swinging the zapper forward, in the manner of hitting a tennis ball, seldom results in a hit. So practice up on the backhand. In time you’ll be snapping the little monsters with a good degree of regularity.

Of course my nylon windbreaker method of beating mosquitoes works equally well on deerflies. The same caveat applies here, though, and that is nylon windbreakers cause the wearer to become uncomfortably warm. But in my opinion, being uncomfortably warm beats getting bitten by deerflies.

The bottom line is that for every outdoor pleasure, there’s an insect to take away the fun. But there’s nothing we can do about it, except to protect ourselves as best we can. Hopefully, some of these tips will at least help to ameliorate some of the misery caused by biting insects.

Tom’s tips

Now is the time to look for nests of mud dauber wasps. These aggressive wasps build nests in sheds and outbuildings, and their nest-building activities has already begun.

Look for wasps entering and leaving woodsheds and other outbuildings. Then, carefully and with a can of wasp and hornet spray in hand as a means of defense, check up near the eaves and rafters for wasp nests. But don’t spray them. Instead, quietly back away and return after dark, when the wasps are all in their nests. Saturate nests with spray and then leave.

Use a spray that has residual action, so that any wasps that were gone when you sprayed the nest will ingest the poison upon their return.

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