Safer at home

Four perfectly good excuses to stay indoors this summer
By CLIF GARBODEN  |  June 12, 2007

Sure, global warning is a real problem. And we’re not even going to discuss the suntan/skin-cancer connection. Nor would we encourage you to swim alone or anywhere near jet skiers, or dine at any chain that bills itself as a “family restaurant.” Those things represent major hazards that should be obvious to everyone.

But sometimes it’s the little unavoidable, uncontrollable things that discourage us — the hungry insects, the secret prowess of cute forest creatures, the remote chance of a fatal atmospheric disturbance, or camouflaged malicious plant life — that provide the incentive to stay indoors where it’s safe.

Here are four examples, accompanied by some fun facts to put them in proper perspective. Read this article behind closed doors.

Greenhead flies
Gaze into their bright green eyes at your peril. Don’t even think about petting them. The biggest of their number — measuring up to and inch and an eighth — can drain your veins with vampire-like efficiency.

Meet Tabanus americanus Forester, the bane of the beach. Like their smaller, but equally pesky, distant cousins the mosquitoes, greenheads flourish around standing water, preferring marshland habitats. This is why we have so many greenheads in Ipswich and virtually none in Durango. Areas of stagnate water — wetlands, marshes, swamps, as you will — are so hospitable to greenheads because the things breed in mucky soil.

The wretched creatures’ cycle of life goes something like this: Mama greenhead lays eggs — lots and lots of eggs — on a leaf or reed or discarded Coors can near water. The eggs hatch on their own and the resulting larvae make their way to soft soil, where they dig in for two years of incubation, after which they percolate their way to the surface to pupate. For their next act, they fly off and take a painful chunk out of your flesh, from which they ingest blood, which prompts the production of more eggs, and then the whole, seemingly pointless, exercise happens again.

Crane Beach is famous for the buggers, but they flourish all through the eastern United States. There’s some benighted island off the coast of New Jersey where locals tell tales of pet dogs and cats being carried off by swarms of greenheads, though one suspects those islanders are hallucinating from loss of blood.

What can you do about greenheads? Now that we protect our fetid wetlands, your choices are pretty much limited to cursing them or avoiding them. No healthful amount of standard insect repellant will faze them unless you’re lucky enough to smack one with the bottle. There are specialty repellants that claim to do the job. It’s your body, but discouraging greenheads with chemicals is about as challenging as repelling bears by wearing heavy clothing. Speaking of which . . .

Here in the East, we’re lucky. We don’t have grizzly bears or polar bears or Kodiak bears in New England. And compared with New York’s Adirondacks or rural counties in north-central Pennsylvania, where the ursine population literally outnumbers the human census, even our allotment of Ursus americanus, the cuddly [looking] little black bear, is modest.

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Health and Fitness, Mammals, Nature and the Environment,  More more >
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