PAT NEAL: A bad bunch of bugs

IT IS DAYLIGHT in the swamp. The faint cooing of the band tailed pigeon ushers in the dawn of another soggy spring day.

Beneath the splatter of rain drops, we hear another sound as the insects of the rainforest awaken. There is the buzzing sound of bug season beginning now.

Perhaps it’s the wet weather that has us enduring a bumper crop of bugs. Causing us to consider, this could be the worst bug season in years.

Starting with the smallest of these pests that invariably bug us first. The No-see-um is an almost microscopic bug that is almost too small to notice — until it is too late.

They are so small that it is difficult for most people to see. They have ways to get our attention though.

Swarming in clouds so thick about your head they can make breathing difficult. Getting in your eyes and ears while leaving patches of itchy welts all over your hide.

Don’t take it personally. They and their other insect friends are merely attempting to use your blood to fertilize their eggs for the next generation of pests.

Just remember, they are attracted to the CO2 we exhale while breathing. Stop breathing and the bugs will stop bothering you, but that is not an option for most of us.

As the day warms, the bugs get larger. The current crop of mosquitos are approaching the size of small birds. They may be slow and ponderous now, but don’t worry, they’ll get smaller and faster as the season progresses.

Which will bring on another forest pest that will make you forget about the mosquito, the black fly. These are little black bugs about the size of a house fly with one big difference: Black flies bite.

They attack in swarms so large, it are impossible to slap all the bugs at once. No matter how hard you try.

Still, none of our insect pests can match the deerfly for sheer evil genius.

Though a deerfly is larger than the biggest housefly, they are able to fly silently, land lightly and start feeding immediately. Once a deerfly gets you in its sights, your outdoor outing just took a turn for the worse.

That’s because there is seldom just one of these winged devils. They hunt in teams that tend to wear down the victim.

When you take off your hat to swat a deerfly, chances are another one will bite you on your bare head.

You try to swat the fly on your head with your hat, but deerflies can take a beating and keep on eating.

The first one you swatted has bounced back in the air.

The deerfly circles until they can approach you from behind.

That’s when you need the buddy system, someone to watch your back.

I once saw some cranky campers who were swatting each other with tree branches to keep the deerflies off each other.

The bugs were fierce. Battling deer flies can call for desperate measures.

Squashing one of these engorged bloodsuckers is a disgusting experience that is not for the feint-hearted. They ooze blood. It’s probably yours!

Just remember, it’s you or the bug.

Still, there are worse bugs. You’d know that if you ever kicked into a black hornet or a yellow jacket nest. These are being constructed as you read this.

This summer will provide a bumper crop of hornets.

Last year at this time, I had killed one nest. This year so far, I have killed five.

If that is any indication, we are in for a bad bunch of bugs this summer.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via