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Sunday, April 02, 2017

Bite Me

Venomous snakes lurk in the brush through much of the area I spend my time. Ticks lie in ambush, waiting to jump aboard and inject disease into my blood stream. Mosquitoes hone in on carbon dioxide so they can join their tick cousins in injecting pathogens all under the guise of feeding. Then there are the over 250 black fly species in North America, with about a half dozen different ones that have been determined to bite you. 

The way I see it, they are all determined to bite you. Though we do fare better than livestock and poultry when it comes to fly bites. These animals can catch all sorts of nasty and deadly diseases and even drop dead from severe blood loss and toxic shock.

Black flies exist simply to annoy. Yes, they bite, and in some people they might cause an allergic reaction at the bite site, but according to Purdue University, there are no known diseases they transmit to humans in North America. In some areas they are called Buffalo Gnats, implying you don't need to worry about them if there aren't any bison around.

Though many black fly bites can collectively cause fever, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, and headache, don't worry about it. It's called 'Black Fly Fever" and is no big deal to those not suffering from it. 

In Central and South America, and also parts of Africa, black flies can inflict a disease known as river blindness. Basically, they inject you with a worm larva that causes all sorts of skin problems and blindness. It hasn't found its way north yet, but like most things infectious, I'm sure one day it will.

Black flies require clean, well oxygenated water to to breed in. With less and less of that around, it's only a matter of time until black flies become eradicated. It still has me baffled how one time I was bitten by a black fly in Bayonne, NJ.

So don't sweat the black flies. They'll only crawl in your ears, up your nose, and get in your eyes, all the while nipping at your flesh for its vampire meal. Wear a head net, bug suit, duct tape your shirt sleeves to your wrists, spray down with Raid, or any of the concoctions devised over the years to repel the bugs, and be happy knowing that at least in North America they'll only drive you crazy. Unless you're a cow... or a chicken.

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