I have been bitten or stung by just about every insect in the woods and fields. As a kid I ran barefoot through the grass stepping on my share of bees, both honey and bumble. (It is like stepping on a live coal). We romped in the warm summer evenings until the mosquitoes drove us indoors scratching. I have been bitten by deer flies and horse flies and those awful greenheads. Once in Anahuac NWR in Texas in May, I had to bird in the car with the windows up because the local flies were impossible. Until I moved to the mountain the worst bug nightmare for me was ticks. There is something about the attached ongoing sucking that is just nasty. But dog ticks are large enough you can feel them crawl and the deer ticks for some reason cause a burning reaction on me, so I can locate and pull them off before they have time to acclimate to my temperature. There have been many times that one of my freckles has had legs. I thought I was on top of the bug thing. Ha!
Shortly after moving north, I discovered, for the first time, a tiny black biting midge of some kind. The season peaks in May then stops. It was only about 4 or 5 years ago that I found out that the cursed humpbacked flying biting nightmare was Black Fly. The first time I was bitten was on my elbow. My arm swelled up tight almost to my shoulder. After a week, the entry wound began to weep and the swelling went down. The next time it was my ankle between the long pants and the sock. The time the swelling almost reached my knee and I could only wear sandals. I douse myself with bug spray ever afterwards—when I remember. See, that is the trick. I carry bug spray with me everywhere but I don’t always think I need it until it’s too late. Black fly season always catches me unaware.
What does all this have to do with birding? Birds eat bugs. So often if I am watching birds I am battling the bugs. Trust me, it is hard to hold the bins steady with one hand and swat with the other. So if you see me out birding, stand downwind. I will be covered with bug spray from boot to hat. If you need some, don’t hesitate to ask, I carry bug wipes in my birding bag.