“Do what we can, summer will have its flies” is a quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Sitting writing this blog mid summer, trying not to scratch yet another bite on my ankle, I find myself reflecting on the summer so far and the bite count.
Summer Will Have Its Flies
Spring What Spring?
We didn’t really have a normal spring here in Italy. What would normally be lovely sunny days with cool breezes and gardening didn’t turn out that way. Right up to the end of May we had rain and cold weather. Then, almost in the space of a few days, it was hot as the temperature shot up by 10C and suddenly it was summer! With biting thingies.
We felt quite cheated that we hadn’t had the usual few weeks of ‘safe’ outside activity. That is, gardening and sitting watching the view without getting bitten.
I might also add there is a whole area of clothing in my wardrobe that got bypassed this year. I went from winter woollies to summer dresses almost overnight!
I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about a crazy spring and summer with drought.
This summer 2019 saw an African heatwave that carried over Europe. It created crazy temperatures often close to or exceeding 40C even in the UK where 26C would be considered a hot day and 38C was reached one day. It was no different here in Italy, several weeks of hiding from the heat and alongside that being bitten – because summer will have its flies! And mosquitoes and sandflies and horseflies and anything else that can bite love the heat.
The Usual Suspects When You Start Itching
When I first came to Italy we only had to worry about mosquitoes in the evening. At dusk you could guarantee to start to get bitten. There was a ritual of putting on your insect repellent before you went out in the evening.
That all changed several years ago when tiger mosquitoes arrived. They bite during the day, they bite more than once and their bites hurt. Deep joy. So there are a few hours in the morning when you stand a chance of avoiding being bitten but other than that you have had it.
Safe Until Lunchtime
We find we can sit out to eat at lunchtime but by mid afternoon you would be nuts to sit outside for any length of time. Unless you want to play ‘join-the-dots’ later with your bites that is. Or I suppose if you are on holiday and you have no choice! I always get bitten when I feed the cats in the evening. By and large I have given up worrying about it after all, summer will have its flies! It always seems worse at the start of the season. I guess you forget what it is like to have all the bites, so the first few days are always the worst.
It is not so good for us because we live near a small reservoir in an organic area. This means they can’t treat the water to kill the mosquitoes. I might add we don’t have a problem with that, as the mosquitoes are an important part of the ecosystem, feeding the fish and birds.
But because of the reservoir, it doesn’t matter what we do in order to prevent mosquitoes as it is a losing battle. We don’t leave water laying around anywhere, we don’t have dishes under plant pots to collect water etc, etc. With a large area of water so close we might just as well be living by a lake.
Thank goodness for the mosquito nets on all the windows and doors. Though even then some manage to get in. I actually think they see a mosquito net as a challenge.
Last night I counted 13 bites on one side of Barnet Boy’s thigh. He is a easy target when he is walking the dogs! Last year he was chased along the road by some horseflies with attitude – and boy can they bite!
But in my view, worse than the mosquitoes are the sandflies.
In Italy, sandflies are known as pappataci. They are very small black flies, 2-3mm and, like mosquitoes, they are most active at night. And boy do they bite. Their bite really burns and my skin comes up in huge blistering bumps that are really sore. Luckily those raised bumps go down quite quickly.
My nightmare scenario is if a sandfly, or several, get in the bedroom as they just keep biting and you can’t see them if you put the light on! They get through the smallest holes. As Barnet Boy walks the dogs last thing before bed sometimes they bring something down to the bedroom with them – and it is not fun laying in bed waiting to be bitten!
I Miss My Over-Bed Mosquito Net
I used to have a beautiful mosquito net that hung over the bed – burgundy with coloured beads hanging on the edge. It was my extra protection. I had to get rid of it for two main reasons. Unfortunately, BB turned out to be allergic to dust mites and these bed nets are a nightmare for collecting dust. But also two mad dogs that like to paw at you to wake you up, which would rip holes in net in the process. I have it put away safely in case one day I lose it with the bites and put it back up.
Unfortunately, sandflies can carry a serious disease, Leishmaniasis, which can be fatal to dogs. In fact if a dog gets infected with the disease the outlook is not good at all. We go to great lengths to keep our dogs as safe as possible. They are kept in at night and I have already mentioned mosquito nets. We also follow all the advice from our vet on preventative measures.
Good Old Summer
Summer means hot temperatures, visits to the seaside and ice cream. Perhaps a trip around the old towns on a classic Italian Vespa scooter. There are long lazy meals sitting outside, late nights watching the stars and enjoying the cool breeze after a hot day … and bites. It is part of living here and being miserable about it makes no difference. Because summer will have its flies.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound, an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!