Once bitten, twice shy
Country Life UK|September 15, 2021
Whether they bite, suck or sting, some insects are a downright pain in the arm, says Simon Lester, as he identifies the most troublesome little nippers
Simon Lester

INSECTS are headline news at the moment because of their dramatic decline (‘The end need not be nigh’, August 4) and rightly so. They can survive without us, but we cannot survive without them. We are at a time of year when we literally take them under our skin— summer into autumn is when we are most likely to get bitten, stung and sucked. Ants in your pants at a picnic, a wasp on your glass, midges driving you indoors at a barbecue or a vicious cleg (horse fly) whacking you on the back of the leg in the garden.

Some are seeking food, some are defensive and others are darn well aggressive; most are irritating, some are painful and a few can even be lethal. At these times, we are not so charitable to our arthropod friends. Whether it is at work, play or even asleep, odds on one or more of these critters will get you, from the largest vespa to the minute midge or mite. It doesn’t matter, either, if you live in the countryside or the town—no one is immune. As someone who has lived and worked in the countryside all of his life, as a gamekeeper on different estates across the country, I have been bitten, stung and sucked by most of the creatures on this list.

When I was a boy growing up in rural Nottinghamshire, my sister and I, together with some daredevil mates, came up with the idea of blowing up wasp nests with petrol. We would see who was the most valiant (stupid), the douser or the igniter (more stupid), by encouraging the douser to run in to the nest armed with a jam jar of petrol and pour it down the wasps’ entry hole. This, quite understandably, really infuriated the wasps, leaving the igniter with the unenviable task of running back in and, with one strike of a match, lighting the vaporising fuel. Wooof— and we ran like hell. As you can imagine, the jaspers were not happy. Angry wasps don’t give in; instead, they’ll chase you down and inflict multiple stings. If one gets down your shirt or up your shorts, look out. This is not recommended—it doesn’t work and it’s painful. After a severe ticking off, Dad spoke to Dicko the mole man, who came along with his white powder to deal with the nest properly.

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