Here on Rusty Metal Farm I live smack in the middle of a very diverse woodland habitat. In fact, some years back I had a forester design a plan with the primary goal of managing my acreage for wildlife.
My pastures are not mowed for most of the summer so the ground nesting birds have a chance to safely raise and fledge their young. Trees grow to provide more nesting areas, in addition to cover and browse for the moose and deer.
South facing hills on the farm are allowed to grow up into scrub brush for the grouse to nest in and, for their dining pleasure, mountain ash trees and cranberry bushes grow and provide berries.
The pond out back provides hydration for any feathered or furred critter who’s thirsty, and the resident beavers are left to their own devices to build their lodge and make use of any of the nearby trees they like.
All in all, it’s a pretty nice system, with those furred and feathered friends keeping to their own outdoor habitat and leaving me to my inside domicile.
Unfortunately, not everything plays by those rules.
Turns out, what makes great wildlife and bird habitat has the added dimension of being really great habitat for a variety of insects.
That pond? Excellent breeding ground for an annual bumper crop of mosquitos.
The stream that runs into the pond? Running water is the perfect habitat for black flies.
Add on to those the the deer flies, moose flies and — shudder — June bugs that thrive in the northern forestland and you have a buzzing, biting, stinging population from late May to the first frost of fall.
For those months I don’t set a toe outside without first slathering myself with the latest and best insect repellent — also known as “bug dope.”
I’m the type of person who will spend hours tracking a single mosquito if it happens to find its way into my bedroom at night.
For the height of bug season my fashion choices skew toward netting — a headpiece, a shirt and pants all made of mesh that can be worn over my normal clothes and ideally keep the bugs away from my skin.
I say ideally because netting is not 100 percent effective. If a blackfly or mosquito somehow manages to find an opening and crawl inside, I drop whatever I am doing and spend however long it takes dancing around, clawing at the netting trying to evict the interloper.
Honestly, these biting insects have no shame. They seem to like nothing better than crawling under my clothes and crawl around selecting the perfect spot on which to feast on my blood.
More often than not, these bites and subsequent itchy welts are on parts of my anatomy that no one should scratch in polite company.
I remember some years back good friends of mine had a June wedding down at Baxter State Park. It was a lovely location and the wedding itself was marred only by the thousands of blackflies that decided to crash the event.
At one point, my friend had so many blackflies under the netted bodice of her white wedding gown, it looked as if someone had beaded it with tiny black jewels.
Like I said, no shame.
If you have any lingering doubts of the brazenness of black flies, just ask Rusty Metal Farm’s tiny farm dog Chiclet.
Last week, I noticed she was excessively licking her private parts. Upon closer inspection — a process which horrified her — I noticed her vulva was red, chaffed and swollen.
A quick call to the friendly folks at Fort Kent Animal Hospital secured an appointment that same day and off Chiclet and I went.
It was definitely not one of her better days.
She was poked, prodded and closely examined in areas she really would rather have left alone. In the end, turns out it was a blackfly bite directly on her vulva that had become infected. One antibiotic shot and a regimen of prednisone later, she’s on the mend, though still recovering from the trauma of it all.
And it’s only the first of June. Here in the north we are looking at least three more months of winged, buzzing invaders.
Time to dig out my bug-net ensemble and perhaps measure Chiclet for a set of her own.
Either that, or just screen over the entire farm.