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Coping with Delta bugs: bring on the lard...

The explorer Hernando DeSoto, who in the early 1500s spent time trekking through the less-than-friendly environs surrounding the Mississippi River, is said to have complained in his journal about hordes of “infernal buggyes that drive men and horses mad.”

Since nobody seems to have been able to authenticate with any certainty the path(s) of DeSoto’s explorations (this hasn’t deterred any number of Mid-South communities from erecting monuments commemorating his supposed travel through their area), he may actually have written that.

But five centuries later, the “infernal buggyes” situation isn’t a great deal improved. Every insect known to man seems to thrive in the Delta, and most of ’em bite. If they don’t bite, they annoy the stew out of you.

DeSoto and his men, the story goes, were so plagued by the Delta’s insects that they slathered themselves with lard (and, in desperation, even animal dung) in attempts to keep the pests away. To no avail.

I’m one of those unfortunates that insects love to bite and/or pester. It’s as if there’s an invisible homing beacon within me that draws them unerringly.

Mosquitoes come from blocks away to gorge on my blood. Our city has (supposedly) a mosquito control program, but let me set foot outdoors, even in dazzling sunlight, and here they come: “Hey, the buffet’s open — let’s go have a feast.”

I could soak myself for an hour in a tub of Deep Woods Off or Cutter’s and still they’d eat me alive. The irony is not lost on me that my wife can be sitting inches away and the dratted devils will zoom past her to bite me.

I can take a leisurely stroll through the woods, admiring Mother Nature’s handiwork, and MN repays me with dozens of chigger bites and, more often than not, a few ticks that are trying to establish a long-term relationship.

Chiggers/redbugs are practically invisible until the big, red welts start appearing a day or so later, along with the maddening itching that can continue for a week or more. Given the power of their bites, one can only be thankful they are not as big as flies.

Then there are the little black “no-see-ums” that just plop down and start biting; thankfully, theirs don’t last as long as chiggers. And ants of numerous varieties (the horrid fire ants are relentlessly spreading more northward). And bees. And wasps. And hornets. Even common houseflies bite.

Even though gnats don’t bite, the annoyance factor is at the top of the scale. In the midst of the hottest, sweatiest, nastiest of chores, here come the swarms of gnats, buzzing about one’s face. Swatting at ’em is totally futile.

And there is a horsefly that, I swear, waits for me at the same place each morning when I’m out walking. It would afford me the greatest satisfaction to be able to kill it, but it’s much too fast.

Now that the boll weevil eradication program has been successful in almost eradicating that cotton pest, I’d like to suggest a similar effort be launched for mosquitoes. And chiggers. And horseflies…

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