Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Warrior: Continued.

A few years back I wrote a piece titled 'The Warrior' which described my late summer evening battles against the damnable beasts otherwise known as horseflies.*
In recap, we live in a hole in the woods, we are inundated with the critters and crawly beasts that thrive in those environs. Most of them harmless, many are at least little more than a nuisance. A few however, are vicious. Thankfully it's not bears, wolves or dinosaurs I'm talking about. Mosquitoes plague Angel. She's a dog trainer and is outside a lot on most days, everyday, winter, summer, autumn, etc. She has several sprays and even a hooded, mesh mosquito jacket. She still gets bitten though.
Not as numerous, but certainly more dreaded, are the horseflies. Female horseflies suck blood from animals in order to reproduce. They must do this about once per week. Otherwise they and the males exclusively, harmlessly feed on plant nectar. The males completely lack the requisite  mouth parts, the grotesque jagged daggers that the females use for this demonic  task.
A horsefly bite is really, really awful. The female rips  open holes in your exposed neck or legs and uses its sponge like mouth parts to soak up your blood. What you are left with is a painful, burning itch and a large, hard, easily infected, welt. It burns and itches for over a week and there's very little that you can do about it. Of course this also means that she can inject you or your dog with whatever diseases she's happened to come in contact with.
Cattle, deer, horse, dog, human, any animal will do. It's for the sake of the dog/human victims that  I decided to retaliate with unfettered violence rather than run away.
A lady fly got me on the neck one evening while I was walking a perfectly innocent dog. I didn't notice she was there at first, because another couple of the flies, males probably, were harassing the dog, buzzing, landing, buzzing off again, the dog was going nuts trying to make it stop. That's when the lady fly got me, while I was distracted trying to control/rescue the dog.
I had a zapper-swatter that I carried with me the next outing. Useless.  Horseflies have evolved to see a swat or tail swish motion coming from a mile away. Swinging something at them is exactly the one thing they know how to avoid. We can't broadcast poisons on our five acre lot because of the many dogs that come and go from our compound. So I devised a tactic that may seem a little out of the box. A BB gun. I owned an old, seldom fired, Daisy Red Ryder model, just like the one that dorky kid envied in that stupid Christmas movie.
It's a lousy inaccurate and under-powered weapon in general, but I knew I cold get really close to the hovering pests lined up along the driveway in the evening, and BB's are dirt cheap.
Most summer evenings, starting around mid-July and at around eight o'clock, the flies will gather along the driveway, a dozen or two per day. I kill most of them. Sure, every night there are more, but the cycle simply repeats itself. I don't give up on things simply because of overwhelming odds or patently obvious futility. Just ask Angel, my third wife.
Since my original story I've studied and learned more about my adversary and have evolved my tactics to become even more of an industrial killer than the raving, angry savage I'd started out being several summers ago.
A very important thing I've learned is that the bugs that hover and dive along my driveway before sundown are pretty much all males. You know, the ones that do not bite and suck blood. Among them, even a furious 3D jousting  match of a dozen or so of them, I have nothing to fear.  They are not tossing and turning, swooping and soaring to get to me. No, they're trying to get a date.  They swoop in together each evening and wrestle each other for prime position and to display their sexiness to  the smaller, less numerous, but bloodthirsty females.
During the initial stages, the first five or ten minutes, the females don't even bother  to show themselves. That is my window of opportunity, all offense, no defense. In four seasons  I've only had one more near-bite from a female. I'd hung around too long that evening.
You don't have to know a lot about bugology to tell the difference between male and female. The females are  a bit smaller and, unlike the head diving males, will usually aim lower, neck or  leg. They also tend to be more independent and stealthy than the loud, raucous and braggadocious males. Think inebriated frat boys when a pretty coed arrives at the party.
Once the initial scuffling for position starts to settle into a lineup, the ritual killing can begin. The bugs do not recognize me or my weapon as any sort of threat. They are obviously far more concerned about the other males and of course, looking fine for a female. I can and do walk right up to them, within inches, and fire away. They don't often even flinch when I miss.  They will occasionally perform a throttled up diving maneuver, more for show as far as I can tell, than for defense.  It is very similar to the aeronautical 'Immelmann turn'. If you've ever watched a war movie that included a formation of attack aircraft, this is that rolling, off-the-top, banking dive that the hero's plane always leads off with. It even has a similar sound. If a male does this after I've fired, I know I've missed. That's  okay, because they will make this move in a near miss and then return to almost the exact same spot  a few seconds later. I've seen the same bug dive and return to the same exact spot, under fire, a half dozen or more times. I just patiently hold my aim.
Yeah, it sounds very stupid of them, I know. But see, the horny boys have fought furiously for their particular positions. Lust rules the male brain. Alert the media!
I've even been able to locate the most prized positions, those sweet spots,where even on a light night the randy boys will furiously fight over. A few particular clusters of leaves at the end of a low branch. This is actually a very shrewd tactical position. They can be seen by the lower flying female, but are pretty much safe from a male horsefly's only real natural enemy, birds.
Each evening as I venture up into position I can see  a few birds, swooping in on the sunny, sloping, roughly east-west corridor that is my driveway. They are diving in for a snack. For other bugs as well, I'm sure, it's a very busy travel lane for flying and crawling bugs. So the two or three most prized positions for these guys are very near these few leaf clusters.  Indeed, I have made that cool Hollywood shot, just once though, through the leaf and into the bug for a kill.
So why kill the males if the females are the scary ones?
Well, simply put, to make my driveway a far less romantic hot spot. They are gathering there to mate. I am interfering with that ritual. (Coitus Interruptus?)  A female likes a wide sampling of suitors to pick and choose from. By the time she finally pokes her head out here, most of the males here are either dead, quivering and broken on the pavement or in the ditches, or hiding deeper into the woods.
Does it work? 
In the original write up, I spoke a lot of the 'ground troops' that populated the lower section of my driveway, right in front of the house. For the past two years they have not returned to that area. Will it stay that way? Well, as I've said, I'm no bugologist, I'm just a killer.


*There is debate and disagreement about whether 'horse fly', 'horsefly', or 'horse-fly' is more correct. I decided to just pick one and stick with it.

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