Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Making Peace with A Pesky New Neighbor

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Making Peace with A Pesky New Neighbor

Article excerpt

IT was 80 degrees and very humid, and I was mowing the lawn in a long-sleeved shirt, heavy pants, high boots, and gloves. I was hot and uncomfortable, and could barely see through the fine mesh netting that covered my face. It was black-fly season in New Hampshire.

My Pennsylvania girlhood was spent among the oak, the elm, the humble shrub, and the hedge. Often, we would sit out on the open porch late into the evening, attracting the attention of little more than the curious mosquito.

Every kid in Pennsylvania could count on a couple of summer nights when the natives were biting, but most insects were of a genteel breed. The monarch, the praying mantis, the bumblebee, and the firefly were like ice- cream cones and swimming pools and other fun things that stood for summer itself.

When I moved to Massachusetts and encountered mosquitoes with the appetites of car engines, I realized I'd voyaged to a new land. I became used to dousing myself with repellent before any outdoor activity, even lathering my hair. The setting sun was the bugle call to head indoors for the night and stay there until the light of day drove the pests back. Still, I attributed the overabundance of insects to the fact that we lived in a swampy area with a bug lake nearby. It was a condition peculiar to the geography, I thought, and something we could leave behind by moving out of state.

I'd heard about the black fly and its toothsome bite, but I thought the species belonged solely to Vermont and the backwoods of Maine.

Certainly not to the hills and mountains of New Hampshire, which was our destination.

Sometime after my husband and I had settled into our new basement apartment, the spring weather drew us out for a friendly game of catch. After five minutes of batting our arms trying to cut a swath through the thick fog of gnats and mosquitoes, we threw down our mitts and ran for shelter, where we remained for the next few weeks until we moved into our first home.

Even when we toured our property in May (still wearing hip-length, mesh bug suits) I felt certain that the dark haze of bugs would be long gone by the time we officially moved in at the beginning of July. …

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