Those Sucking Bugs!

Take care!  There are dangerous, life-threatening, blood-suckers lurking about on the Bluebird trail!  Okay, it’s mosquitoes I’m talking about, not Count Dracula.  Nevertheless, they truly are a danger on the trail, not to mention extremely pesky!

During the early part of the Bluebird monitor season, there is no need for protection.  Mosquitoes don’t make their presence known in mid-March here in Northern Illinois when nest boxes are being readied for the season.  During April and May, the trail is delightful.  It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of safety because the insects haven’t made their presence known.

But, around Memorial Day (give or take in this neck of the woods) when the weather turns warm, look out!  If you dare to start out on the trail unprotected, you’ll find out very, very quickly that you made a big mistake.  It’s impossible to know exactly when those awful bugs will make their debut, but you surely want to be protected.  Once you venture into the weeds and get found out, it’s too late!  It’s not like the two or three mosquitos biting you in your garden.  They bring their friends and swarm you!  Beating a fast retreat to wherever you left your repellant is the only option.  If you brought your repellant along on the trail with you, well, congratulations on having that much forethought.  It’s better than nothing.  But it’s still too late to avoid bites altogether.  You’ve already been victimized and are sure to be miserable until the bites heal. 

My recommendation is to be prepared well in advance, watch the weather reports, and begin protecting yourself at the very beginning of mosquito season – before you set out on the Bluebird trail.  The mosquito sting causes not only itchy, red welts on your skin but also diseases such as West Nile Virus.  And look out for Dengue Fever , the mosquito-borne viral disease affecting humans that has been found in Florida, Texas and Hawaii is increasingly becoming a plague around the world.  While Malaria has been considered to have been eliminated from the United States, it is still a danger in the tropics and subtropics.  On a 9-day birding trip to Costa Rica in 2009, I took Chloroquine before, during and after the trip as an anti-Malaria preventative.  And lastly, although it does not occur in the U.S, Yellow Fever is common in parts of Africa and South America.  Serious, travelling birders – be aware.  So, while on the Bluebird trails of the U.S. we’re safe from some exotic forms of mosquito-borne disease, we still need to take the threat seriously.

Some things you can do to minimize mosquito stings are:

  • apply a good-quality mosquito repellant before you start out
  • wear a head net
  • carry a mosquito repeller device
  • wear mosquito repellant clothing
  • wear gloves
  • cover every inch of yourself

Saturday, June 11, 2011 after several days of heavy rain.  Overcast, air temperature 62 degrees with a light breeze.  Unseasonably cool for several days following a few days of blistering heat.  Ninety-six degrees, 95 degrees, thunderstorms and heavy rain ahead of the cool front, 51 degrees, more rain, 62 degrees more rain.  I woke up to overcast skies determined to go out on the route.

I did manage to run the route with only one bite on my left hand between my thumb and first finger and one below my ear.  Not bad at all for the unbelievable swarms around me while wading in infested rain-soaked prairie with lots of standing water monitoring 20 nest boxes.

There is good news….birds eat insects….so the birds were very well fed.

What are your best mosquito repellant ideas?

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