Bitten by bugs

I was going hiking in a forest in the middle of summer. All the bugs were going to be out in full force. Ticks that can cause Lyme disease, biting flies, mosquitoes that can give me West Nile virus. Poison ivy plants that will cause boils all over my arms and legs. I had even seen pictures of the boils on the Internet. I shouldn’t have.

I was also worried about the leeches in the streams and the lakes, but mostly, I worried about the ticks.

During the trip, I never went out for even a few minutes without spraying bug spray on every inch of exposed skin. Not that I had much of a choice, all the mosquitoes for miles around descended on me in huge swarms the moment I stepped out. They seemed to pick me out particularly. My hiking companions joked that they really didn’t need bug spray as long as I was with them, all the bugs were going to hover around me and leave them alone.

So it was not surprising that despite dousing in bug spray, I acquired a large swelling in the center of my forehead. Biting flies were the culprit, apparently. “Harmless”, they told me. I was now looking a little like B’Elanna Torres. It was an interesting new look, but unfortunately it went away after a day.

I hadn’t paid too much attention to bug spray before. When I was buying bug spray, I just checked to see what the spray protected against. There were orange cans and green cans, all of the same brand. All of them contained DEET, of course, and they all protected against the same set of bugs. The green ones contained a little more concentrated DEET than the orange. So I picked the green. More DEET is better, right?

Turns out I was wrong. The orange ones smelt faintly of oranges, or something almost pleasant. The green ones stank horribly. But with the Klingon look already in place, I had no choice but to rub stinking green bug spray all over my face.

Then there was the poison ivy danger. The hiking trails were narrow, with knee-high plants on both sides of the trail. Some were even taller, and all of them waved around in the breeze. I walked carefully, looking hard at each leaf that brushed me and wondered if it was poison ivy. I did not see any poison ivy. Mostly because I have no idea exactly what it looks like.

I did, however, see a snake. It scuttled off just in front of me, and I had the presence of mind not to step on it. “Snake ahead” I reported to those behind me (just in case they stepped on it, I am a big fan of the SPCA) and continued. The snake didn’t worry me – not just because I knew none of the snakes in this part are poisonous. I wasn’t worried because snakes don’t give you Lyme disease.

We returned quite unscathed. As far as I know, I did not met any ticks or leeches, or even poison ivy. That alone should make the trip a success.

As we pulled into our driveway, I noticed that the plants we planted last week seemed a little droopy. So I rushed off to water them, and then I saw that a lot of my roses had flowered. A quick tour of the garden was obviously needed. I walked on the backyard lawn in my flip flops, checking to see if the plums have ripened, and whether the crab apple’s berries have become bigger.

Immediately, and perhaps inevitably, I got bitten in the ankle by a bug. I hope it’s a spider, not a mosquito. Spiders don’t carry the West Nile virus.

Still, it could have been worse. At least it’s not a tick.

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17 thoughts on “Bitten by bugs

  1. I like the touch of humor in your posts. Your reference to B?Elanna Torres is so funny!

    But insect repellants..argh! I dislike them. Normally I wear long sleeves and pants in such cases, which does help to some extent.

  2. “Still, it could have been worse. At least it?s not a tick.”

    Lekhni: I see the humorous note but as a friend of a friend photo-documents on Facebook her own slow death, at a ripe age of 26, with Lyme disease which was detected so late it went to her brain, I wish more would be like you – prepared with bug-spray to keep away undesirables while trekking. The girl was an aspiring lawyer, but now just cannot keep up with the pressures of a law firm.

    Bug-sprays, you are welcome.

  3. km: The blogosphere needs a friendly neighborhood spiderwoman, don’t you think?

    Celine: I did wear long sleeves, despite the heat! Also jeans and ankle-high hiking boots. Short of wearing a face mask, I was covered up 🙂 But I still got bitten on my elbow! Then I took to spraying even my clothes with bug spray 😦

    manuscrypts: Oh yes, I will have the web at my finger tips 😉 Or wrists.

    Shefaly: That’s a horrible story! I guess she was really, really unlucky. As for me, I am quite paranoid. I have read too many horror stories on the net..

    maxdavinci: It’s not so bad. All you need to make sure is there are no ticks hanging on to you, and that you don’t develop any bulls-eye rash. Antibiotics are quite effective in the early stages.
    You should read how Neil Gaiman reacted to being bitten recently – a mix of casual and cautious. (Scroll down to the end of his post).

    La vida Loca: Let’s hope I don’t spot any bulls-eye rashes 🙂

  4. Just the reading gave me the creeps. I went into a trail in Smokies without any of those precautions. Had just read what’s to be done in case we spot a bear. But neither did we encounter bugs nor bears!

  5. Adithya: Probability dictates that you should be more scared of bugs than bears. There were black bears in the forest we went to, too, and a bear had been seen overturning the trash cans around our cabin (too bad we never saw it).
    What to do if you spot a bear? Don’t run, climb trees, hand over your backpack if it has any food and tell the bear that you share its views on the economy 😉 The bear will surely let you go!

  6. A nicely written horror story. What’s the whole point of risking your life like this? I personally feel Nature is a dangerous beast that should be controlled and then admired. Often from the living room.

  7. kavi: There are no nicer words than those 🙂

    Rambodoc: I know, the intrepid guys in Discovery and NatGeo take us everywhere. But staying at home doesn’t help – I got bitten in my own backyard too!

    Compulsive Dreamer: Yes, the bug bites have all subsided now..

  8. This post makes me so want to go trekking as soon as i can. BTW just out of curiosity, what forest was this? Sounded quite, er, natural! snakes et al…

    You have a backyard where you grow plums and berries! wow. All i have in my apartment is a balcony with views of some trees, and i thought this was great!!

  9. amreekandesi: This was the Superior National Forest. There is lots of wildlife, unfortunately we didn’t see any of the bears/ moose/ wolves/ bobcats…and the rest of them. Not a single one of them wanted to chat with us.
    The backyard unfortunately also involves a lot of mowing, weeding, and fertilizing. It spends each day scheming how to take away all our weekends 😉

    A Cynic in Wonderland: If you mean the mosquitoes, they are here too. In huge swarms every time I step out on the lawn 😦

  10. Good one! We all have fears…I guess you just wrote them out.
    Internet somehow I feel is a dangerous area too. You read a little, the person writing the page wrote a little and little knowledge is painful.

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