Saturday, February 9, 2019
Garden Glamour Thwarts Biting Flies
One dark side to the balmy weather is that the bug population doesn't get killed off in the cold and wet like they do in the north. It's a constant battle in the vegetable garden to stay ahead of pests no matter what time of year it is. I even had a lacewing fly into the house a few weeks ago. They like to hang out in the Mutablis rose near the deck and my recent pruning of it disrupted their housing.
According to my records, we've had a nearly average amount of rainfall this past fall and into January. The weed seed bank accumulated from not keeping up with appearances has sprouted with abandon. I've got plants coming up that I've never seen before and suspect they arrived in a torrent from some uphill neighbor. Weeds, weeds, everywhere so must haul my butt outside to try to catch up before hot weather arrives. I put on my shorts and tank top since I don't have to fear heat exhaustion, slather on sunscreen and am ready to do battle.
Except for the biting flies.
January and early February are usually mosquito free due to the temperature, but the biting flies are apparently more cold tolerant. Like fire ants, they pack a bite compared to their relative size. They are commonly called "Blackfly", scientific name Simulium meridionale. The female is the biter, and she uses her modified mouth parts to draw blood. They are super fast and I've been unable to swat and kill them. Once one of them draws blood a bunch more show up so it becomes really annoying. I've tried toughing it out but the bites creates a really itchy rash that no lotion will soothe. The only way to avoid them is to go in the house or wear protective clothing. I hate having to cover up because winter is the only time I can be outside without sweating like a horse and I'd like to enjoy the cool air. I guess I could get one of those insect protective suits, but they can be expensive.
This past week I had to give up in a huff and come in the house to put on long sleeves and pants. But then I had an idea. I've got a whole drawer full of pantyhose left over from when I used to work in offices whose dress codes required them. I'd order them online in bulk in the four colors I needed and kept well stocked since I was always snagging them on my desk. Once I didn't have to wear them I started using them as plant ties in the garden, so never threw them out. (They are also handy to dry garlic and onions. I hang them on the deck fully stuffed and they look like the worse case of cellulite EVER.) I pulled on a pair of navy hose, put my shorts back on, donned a long sleeve shirt and went back outside. For those of you in the know, panty hose fabric is not solid, and I've been bitten by mosquitos right through it, but I hoped that it would discourage the flies.
And it did! I was buzzed a couple of times but they didn't land and bite me, allowing me to stay out several more hours. Of course the bad thing is that I also developed several runs, which means I'm going to go through that drawer pretty fast to stay ahead of the flies.
Mission accomplished. Thankfully my backyard fence saved my neighbors from seeing me in my glamorous glory. Although if I fashioned some sort of tutu out of bird netting it could get very interesting...