Relaxation and bug bites

Most of the time when you’re out there in the Great Wide Open of the sagebrush ocean, you’re safe. At least, that’s what we like to tell ourselves.

I certainly wasn’t worried about being attacked by wildlife as I disrobed in preparation for a soak in the charming little hot spring just off Highway 447 a few miles south of sleepy Eagleville, Calif. I got my clothes off, opened the vino, poured a glass, and settled my buns in the pleasant sandy bottom of the pool. At that point, the thought of vicious wildlife was about a million miles away. This was very sloppy thinking on my part because vicious wildlife was considerably closer than that.

I stood up after a few minutes, taking in the view and the perfection of the late summer afternoon. That was when I noticed a little poke of a sensation just under the armpit. “Huh?” I reached up, felt around, didn’t feel anything suspicious, didn’t feel anything at all, and told myself all was fine. Bad boo-boo by me. Things were not fine, and I still didn’t have a clue.

Back in the truck, heading down the road, I noticed a couple of welts rising in the crook of my left elbow, that area where you would usually be jabbed by a needle if giving a blood sample. “Mosquitoes?” was the predictable first response. But there hadn’t been any mosquitoes in the spring. I’d been looking for them. And that’s when I finally figured it out. Figured it out with a touch of dread. “Uh-oh,” I thought, “No-see-ums.”

No-see-ums indeed. The bloodthirsty and nearly invisible little bastards had been stealthily using me for their evening buffet. From past experience, I knew that if you saw three bites, you could pretty much count on there being a few more. Maybe a bunch more. Sure enough, by the next morning, your poor pitiful columnist counted 53 bites in various locations, including both inner elbows, armpits, neck, thigh, and, of course, a couple of crotch shots thrown in for good measure. It was official. I’d been nailed and nailed good. And I hadn’t seen a thing.

Small enough to fly through the mesh of a window screen, no-see-ums are technically biting midges that make life miserable for those who unwittingly wander into their sphere of influence. While not especially common in the Great Basin, they’re not exactly rare, either. Fortunately, they’re repelled by the same bug sprays that repel mosquitoes.

Unfortunately, they have a sincere fondness for the un-DEETed and the unclothed.

The toughest part of recovery? Not itching their divine little bites, which can yield waves of quasi-tantric pleasures should one dare to indulge in even a light scratch.