Monday, July 16, 2012

The Great Black Fly Massacre

Al and I both enjoy spending time on our backyard deck.  Weather permitting, we eat all our summer meals out there: breakfast and weekend lunches in the comfy seats, dinner at the patio table.  We both enjoy the gardens and the birds and this year we have been entertained by the antics of ZigZag, our one year old pup.  She is endlessly surprised and amused by the sprinkler system and loves to frolic in the spray on these unusually hot summer days.  To ZigZag, everything is a toy and she litters the yard with sticks from the woodpile, shredded plastic flower pots left over from  planting the summer annuals, tennis balls, and miscellaneous chewed up doggy toys.    Without question, squirrels are her favorite playthings by far.  Sometimes, she patiently and silently stalks them, sneaking up ever so slowly and...




In her less patient moods, she literally flies off the deck and chases them around the yard and up the trees.  Good thing the deck is only 2 feet off the ground!

Who needs TV?

This summer, though,  we have been annoyed by some pesky little bugs.  I am not sure exactly what they are, but they are really annoying.  They are pretty small- maybe 1/4" and generally kind of beetle-ish.  They are forever landing in our food; we try to watch for them, but it is a safe bet that we've eaten a few.  Worse yet, they dive into the wine-- especially the red wine. I have fished them out of my pinot noir many times.

Being outside is worth the annoyance of those little bugs.  Not like those awful black flies we encountered in Newfoundland.  Those guys ate flesh.

It was in 3 B.K.  (before kids,  1985 in the common era) and Al and I were on one of our extended bicycle trips. We were riding south from St. Johns, Newfoundland towards La Manche Provincial Park  on highway 10.  We were treated to vistas overlooking  beautiful ocean inlets (locally referred to as bights),   tormented by intense winds coming off the beautiful ocean inlets (locally referred to as bights),  and taunted by long steep descents, of course  followed by long steep ascents.

A wonderful ride, all in all!

As we turned in to the park, we thought we were leaving the bights behind.  

Not really, as it turned out.

Falling into the usual routine,  Al set up the tent and I got busy with the dinner preparations.  As the sun began to set and heat of the day dissipated, we began to notice the flies. 

At first we waved them away.

But more flies came.

We began to swat at them.

The park was not crowded.  They must have heard there was fresh meat available.  

And more flies  came.

We put on bug repellent.  They didn't mind. 

And more flies came.

It was still pretty warm, but we put on long pants, long sleeved shirts.

They bit our hands.  Tasty.  And more flies came.

We put our biking gloves and, for good measure, our bike helmets back on.

We still had tasty necks.  We still had tasty faces.  And ankles.

And more flies came.

Al pitched the tent.

And more flies came.

I  finished making dinner.

And more flies came.

The flies feasted on us, and we inhaled our dinners.  We rinsed the dishes and sought shelter.  Of course, the only shelter was our tent. 

This is not our tent.  But very similar.
Remember, we were bicycling.  We had one of those very compact hiker-biker tents.  It was big enough for 2 sleeping bags (for very good friends), and at the tallest point it was tall enough for one person to sit up.  From there the tent sloped downward, so at our feet it was only a foot or so high.  This was a tent made for only for sleeping.

Nonetheless, it did have no-see-um screening which would certainly keep the black flies away.  It was still daylight, but it seemed like we were destined to  spend the evening staring at the ceiling of our tent.

The challenge was for us to get into  the tent without admitting any unwanted guests.

Al crouched down next to the tent.  

I got into position.

ZIP!  He unzipped the tent.  

I dove in while he zipped it back up as quickly as possible.

Sitting as far to one side as I could, I got ready to open the zipper for Al.


He dove in and I zipped the tent back up.

We laid on top of our sleeping bags and discovered that we were joined by dozens of insatiably hungry black flies.

But now we had the upper hand.  As they landed on the ceiling of our tent, we simply reached up and squished them.   And we kept score.

If they bled, they must have bitten us before we squished  them.  Score one for the black flies.  If they didn't bleed, we got them before they bit us and we got the point. 

In terms of points, the black flies won.  We had huge welts from the bites all over our necks and ankles.  Those welts itched and burned and lasted for days. But in the end, the flies were squished on the ceiling of our tent.  We, on the other hand,  lived to reproduce.

They scored some points, but we clearly won the game.

We still have that tent, and although we tried to clean it, little brown splotches remain,  reminders of the Great Black Fly Massacre.

Tonight I am grateful that the little annoying beetle-y things are merely annoying.  Still, I wonder if anyone has any ideas for getting rid of them.

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