The Community Chronicle, July 2019
Bugged Out: No-See-Ums Sneak Up on Us
When we moved into our new home last summer we considered ourselves fortunate to be able to buy a home with more room than we’d ever had in our married life. Just as important was the big backyard full of towering, old trees and a nice back porch. Every morning we rose early and drank coffee on our porch and in the eves returned to sip on wine and watch the day end as the birds flitted from tree to tree. It seemed like heaven, until it wasn’t.
We both began to notice lots of bites on our legs and arms. One particular morning my husband counted 50 bright red bug bites on each leg. I had quite a few as well, though not nearly as many as he did. We couldn’t figure it out. No matter that we hadn’t seen a single mosquito, something was biting us. My sister paid us a visit, looked at our bites and said, “Oh, those are no-see-um bites.”
“What’s a no-see-um?” I asked.
She grinned. “Just what it sounds like, it’s a bug you can’t see. And they have a nasty bite.”
I’d never heard of such a thing and told her so.
“Google it,” was her response.
So, of course, I did and she was right, I found a lot of info on the darn bugs. The articles said that the only recourse was to use Deet. I really didn’t want to apply Deet every time I wanted to sit on the porch or work in the garden and decided I would find a natural way to keep the nasties away.
I thought that maybe the cracked, non-working fountain near the porch that held some stagnant water might have been where the bugs were hiding. We moved it to a shed and still the bugs bit. Next, I put a big citronella plant near where we sat. It was no help at all. I tried wearing non-Deet, herbal bracelets. Not one of my more brilliant ideas; they proved useless. All summer long I tried one thing after another; all my efforts resulted in more and more bites. Our only recourse was to drink coffee and wine indoors and watch the birds through the kitchen window.
Finally, cooler temperatures arrived. The bugs headed south or wherever they go for the winter. Once again we could sit on the porch, bundled up, memories of biting bugs long gone.
In early spring I had a new idea – I’d read that certain herbs would repel biting bugs. As soon as we could work the soil, I yanked out all the lantanas growing next to the porch. I was sorry to see them go but if I had to sacrifice them for a bug-free zone, so be it. I replaced the lantanas with lemon balm and lavender and mint and basil and catnip and a half dozen other herbs that were supposed to deter the bugs. When I told my sister what I’d done she laughed and laughed and said, “You’re so cute. Herbs aren’t going to keep away the bugs. Just use Deet.”
I wasn’t ready to give up and told her so. She shrugged and said, “Well, good luck with that. Keep plenty of topical itch medicine around.”
Turned out that my sister was right, again. The herbs didn’t help one bit and on top of that, something was eating the herbs! Not snails, had already decimated that bad boy population, so I applied Sevin dust everywhere. It took a while and finally whatever was eating the herbs stopped their noshing. Meanwhile, summer arrived and those darn no-see-ums returned with a vengeance, dining on us like it was harvest time. I knew I had to up my game.
I visited my local big-box hardware store looking for something that would annihilate what I couldn’t see. And there it was – an outside light fixture. The bulbs would attract bugs and as soon as they got close to the purple light it would zap the livin’ daylights out of them. Now we’re talkin! From the first day that hubby installed the fixture, it began working it’s magic. So you must be wondering, are we finally bite-free? Uh, no, but it is better. And to be honest, we use Deet when we sit on the back porch, just in case.
Published July 2019
The Community Chronicle