Wednesday, May 04, 2011


The rain stops, the sun comes out, the air warms and sweetens with the scent of flowers and damp earth and green, growing things. The out of doors beckons, luring you with bird song and open spaces, shady glades and winding roads. You lace up your walking shoes, step outside, breathe deeply, douse yourself with bug spray to keep away the pesky mosquitoes, and hum a happy little tune as you set off. Ah, what a world! What a day! What... is this?

It’s the devil disguised as a deer fly, is what it is. It’s torture dressed up in wings and teeth, a demented demon trained as a kamikaze pilot, impervious to insect repellent and bent on biting you. A single deer fly can turn a simple stroll into a battle for dominance. It’s you or the fly and there is only one victor.

Unlike mosquitoes that dance at a respectable distance from bug spray, deer flies don’t. They buzz and bomb, darting in devious circles first one way and then another. They swoop down out of nowhere, whirl in a mad dance around your head and land only long enough for you to feel their vicious bite. By the time you’ve swatted yourself hard enough to see stars, they’re up in the air again, a whirling dervish with a bit of your flesh clinging to their feverish jaws.

One day last June my daughter Cass and I took advantage of a break in the clouds to go for a quick hike. We set off down the road, arms swinging, legs pumping, glad for the watery sunshine and lifting mists. Abruptly, Cass broke her stride to do an odd little dance. She raised her arms and swung them wildly around her head. She jumped up and then back and then whirled around, bobbing and weaving and punching the air like a boxer. Around her head, darting and whirring like a berserk wind-up toy was a deer fly, its sturdy death-proof body and flashing wings throwing off golden glints.

“Stand still,” I instructed, “and I’ll whack it.”

I clapped my hands where the fly was and missed, clapped again to the left of it and then to the right. I jumped and clapped, sidestepped and clapped. Cass ducked, her arms wrapped around her head. Then “Ouch!” she yelled and slapped at a bit of her unprotected neck. The fly turned a somersault, tumbling down before righting itself and zooming straight for my face.

Hastily I grabbed a fallen twig with several leaves still attached. Cass grabbed another, swinging it around and around her head. We broke into a gentle trot, then a mad gallop for home, swinging our branches and yelling, “Get away! Get away!”

A car passed, the driver taking in our disheveled appearance and the leafy branches clutched in our fists. We saluted jauntily as though leafy bouquets were every bit as reasonable as flowers. His expression indicated he had no idea how lucky he was to be encased in metal and capable of going faster than a deer fly.


steven said...

on one trip each of us attached a hunk of two sided tape to the back of our hats. the contest - for that is what it was - was to see who could "catch" the most deer flies on the tape. the prize - a bottle of red. it's amazing how many of them end up on the tape. it's amazing how many of them are smarter than that! steven

Brian Miller said... that was a sight to see...yikes though on tangling with these pests...

Reya Mellicker said...

This is hilarious and scary at the same time.

Why do they bite? Are they just mean? Must google.

Reya Mellicker said...

Holy cow - they feed on blood! Yikes. They really ARE evil.

Pauline you're such a great writer. I forgot to say that before.

Pauline said...

Steven - they make walking in the evening a nightmare!

Brian - we must have looked pretty funny but even waving leaf-laden branches didn't keep them from attacking. And no bug spray deters them!

Reya - thank you and yes, they're nasty creatures!