High Desert Hoofbeats
The bite of summer...
by Sena Taylor Hauer
Jun 12, 2014 | 376 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I have what looks like pox on the skin surrounding my eyes and in one ear, caused by the infamous “no see ‘ums” that buzz around this time of year. Much as I am bothered by the little creatures, whose names include cedar gnat, punky, and perhaps most appropriately, moose fly, I have learned that their interaction with me helps to fuel the circle of life here in the desert.

When I felt the sweat dripping around my hatband the other evening I knew the little buggers would be leaving their marks. True to their name, I felt the bites of the gnats even when I didn’t see them flying around; much as I shoo’ed and shoo’ed, the little bugs found their way to the most sensitive and visible areas of my face. I woke up the next night with a hot, itchy ear, and the bumps around my eyes appeared the next morning.

I’m trying to not scratch these little wounds, knowing that will only make matters worse. I’ve tried using a product called After Bite on the nibbled areas, but after getting only a little relief from that stuff I have reached for some of our locally produced Sore No More. That double whammy, plus a hot washcloth, has taken a lot of the irritation away. Both medications have left me teary eyed because the main ingredient in the After Bite is ammonia, and the Sore No More is full of menthol, camphor, capsaicin and other ingredients that help to lessen the irritation. Now I mainly have little red bumps, which are increasing in number after successive evenings outside.

That’s all part of summer, I suppose, getting stung and bitten by bugs. I recently learned a little about the no see ‘ums, and found out that they don’t puncture our skin like mosquitos do. The gnats saw away at our outer layer, and their saliva includes a chemical that prevents blood from clotting. So as soon as the gnats make their mark, little dots of blood flow to the surface of our skin and the gnats suck it down like Coke through a straw. Amazing that they can do all that sawing and sucking in an instant, to leave us feeling itchy and allergic for days.

The females are to blame for afflicting us, just as female mosquitos are the ones that bite. The males can live off of plants, but the females need the blood to produce eggs so that their progeny can keep biting us.

As for mosquitos, what with the standing water left from recent rains and the snow melt that has gorged our river and made swamps out of areas that are usually dry, it looks to be a bumper year for those biters. In the Moab Valley the Mosquito Abatement District does a great job of snuffing out breeding areas, but the mountains and riverbanks outside of town may be full of the blood suckers.

That’s OK. If it weren’t for these little flying buggers, our fish, lizards and birds would have a lot less to eat. I guess I’m fine with sacrificing a little of my own blood to keep the circle of life going. But it’s going to take quite a bit of After Bite and Sore No More to keep me comfortable.

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