Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Don't Bug Me Bug!

I was outside watering my flower beds this afternoon, and feeling like a walking portable buffet for the gnats and mosquitoes. I realized that Summer is barreling toward us, and although we've had a slight reprieve from the heat for the last two days, soon the temperatures will be skyrocketing toward the 90s and life will be miserable out of doors. As a kid growing up in the 60s (I was born in 1956) we didn't have air conditioning. The best we could do to relieve the heat was a large fan in the window at the back of the house, and all of the other windows left open. This afforded a rather nice nighttime breeze and kept the house from becoming an oven during the day. We kids didn't know it was hot inside although I am sure Mama knew it, and Daddy too. Of course leaving the windows open meant that you took a chance of having unwelcome visitors in the house if you had a tiny hole in any of the screens. The mosquito, (aka the state bird), availed herself of the most minute tear in any screen, and we often woke the next morning with a red bump on an arm or a leg, or most irritating, on the back of the shoulder just out of hands reach. I say that it was a her because typically the males do not feed on blood but feed on the sap of plants. The females, however, aren't shy about inviting themselves to dinner, mind you, and you're the main course.
If the mosquitoes weren't lucky enough to find a hole in the screen, the midges didn't need one... A midge is known as a "no-see-um" here in the South. You -can- see them, but they are miniscule. Sharpen a pencil really good and make a dot on paper, or you could poke a hole in a piece of paper with a pin...That's the size of a midge. They have a nickname here- Flying Teeth.
They bite and it isn't painful, per se but it doesn't feel good, either. It's an instant stinging itch. They leave tiny red dots where they've been, and those are usually surrounded by a slightly pale ring. Surprisingly, other than being a painful nusiance to people, the no-see-um isn't listed as a pest that warrants any kind of pest control because they carry no diseases. This little bit of knowledge is no comfort when you are sitting in your car at the drive-thru and suddenly your scalp feels like a buffet and everyone's dining at once... There aren't enough hands on a typical human to battle them.
Fire ants were a problem too, when I was little, but not like they are today. That is not to say that we didn't know of them and what they were, and what they could do. For the most part they were usually out in the fields and far from anywhere that we played.
There were the huge black carpenter ants, too. They shared our oak tree that we played under and sometimes they took shortcuts across our ankles and arms. I was never bitten by one but they have huge mandibles and they will bite.
What was different about then compared to now? I still have the same skin (just more of it - quite a lot more of it, actually). The mosquitoes and midges are the same- I think, as are ants, yet each bite now feels as if they've begun to carry ice picks, pickaxes, and pocket knives to stab with! I'm reminded of the gold digger in Rudolf The Red-nosed Reindeer when he swings his pickaxe and tastes the snow for gold. I can almost hear their little lips smacking!
I can't take the heat now, either. I'm not sure if it's because I'm older and it's hotter, or if I've just become so accustomed to air conditioning. Sometimes I wonder how different my life would be if I had continued to live like I did as a child. Mama and Daddy kept the window unit in the dining room even after the kids were all grown and moved out of the house - and they only used it sparingly. They depended for the most part on the window unit in the back room of the house - and I can't remember either of them ever having a cold. In fact, I can't remember, as a child,  ever having a cold either!
Heat, bugs, summer - it was a package deal when I was young and there was no escaping any of it! Although now and then, we'd take an uncommonly long time getting ice cubes out of the freezer, or getting a glass of tea from the refridgerator...
Now we just crank the air down a bit, slather on some Off or some SSS from Avon... and we dodge the heat and the bugs if we are able.
As kids we ignored these things for the most part. We itched and we scratched. We played, carrying a picnicking "skeeter" now and then, too. When we went camping, the insects knew we were on the way, and set up welcoming committees. I'm pretty sure if we had looked closely, we'd have seen tiny signs posted all around our chosen campsite like the South of the Border signs lining I-95... "Free Buffet" "Come on In", "Dine Here" "No Shirt =Easy Dining" and finally,  "Eat Here!" We lived through it.
Somehow. Not now.