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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Flood, pestilence and the penalties of procrastination... Part Two

And now for the pestilence....

OK, I am no entomologist, and I really don't know what the little "bugs" are, but they are certainly splattered and embedded on my windshield....

I think they are the infamous "black flies" of New England that I've heard of in the past. You would think that after ten years of living in the area I would know what these things are -- people around here are always talking about them in late spring and early summer. But in the past I had not paid much attention, mainly because I was either out of the country or commuting to work in black-fly-free New Jersey.

But now I commute regularly (52 miles, to be exact) to my campus office in New Hampshire, and by the time I get there these days I can barely see through the windshield because of these hundreds of tiny black specks that have accumulated there. The interesting thing is that they do just that -- they seem to accumulate without any visual splatterings, and they do so in such numbers and with such stealthness that they seem bred to seek implanting themselves on the clear surface to stay (cui bono?). You cannot get rid of them by just turning on the wipers and window washer -- nor will a mere squeegee treatment do the trick. A significant amount of "elbow grease" needs to be applied to get rid of them -- and by the time you are another five miles down the road they are back making visibility difficult....

Are these the legendary black flies? I tried looking up the little pests on google, and the best answer I can give is "perhaps." Black flies are annoying not merely for their numbers and tendency to swarm around your head (it turns out they love the CO2 we exhale, according to one site), but also because some carry a nasty bite (it is the female seeking blood, again according to my sources). They typically emerge and start to breed in April and May and head from south (of where, they don't say; they are a problem from time to time in Florida, for example) to north, becoming a literal pest in Maine (at least in this part of the world) during July -- and then they disappear. Like many others, I originally thought they were like mosquitoes, and to some extent they are. Unlike mosquitoes, they do not come indoors and cannot penetrate clothing, etc. They breed in running water, and like temperatures above 50 degrees. Small (1 to 5 mm in length), they live for about six weeks.

The recent rains have certainly provided them with the running water, and during that rainy spell of the past week or two it was in the 60 degree range. So all indications are that these are black flies.

Hopefully, however, they will start their move north with the help of a breeze -- and while I have nothing against our friends in Canada, I wish for this pestilence to make its annual trek quickly so I can see out my car window....

But then I am probably wrong -- perhaps it is some other creature doing its thing....


black flies
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Comments on "Flood, pestilence and the penalties of procrastination... Part Two"

 

Blogger Ciarán said ... (10:11 AM) : 

So: you're not having a good week then? It could be worse. Every tried wringing out final year exam scripts?

 

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