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August 1, 2014

Bugs: Don’t let them ruin your summer experiences

By Carolyn Dean

“Ahhh,” the middle of July has finally arrived and it is what we’ve been waiting for all year. The chance to take long winding hikes, swim in countless mirrored lakes, and work the gardens for fresh homegrown veggies and flowers. Vermont is peaking with vivacious nature and recreational splendor that makes us want to pinch ourselves when suddenly we realize we are not the ones doing the pinching, but rather a blood sucking mosquito that has seemingly come to suck all the fun out of our day.

From June through August Vermont experiences many days of heat, humidity, and rain and subsequently becomes a breeding ground for many flying insects. Being a nuisance does not compare to the risk of diseases they can spread such as West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) Virus, and Lyme disease. Brandon and its surrounding towns have been known to have some of the worst mosquito problems to date in the state.

The BLSG (Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen) Insect Control District monitors the local mosquito population, plus the other insects that wreak havoc on our short summer season. Deer flies, Japanese beetles, ticks, and forrest tent caterpillars (although there has not been a outbreak in a few years) are some of the most exasperating bugs in the area.

If you’re not the BLSG, you still can protect your land and yourselves from these pests.

Japanese beetles are a gardener’s worst enemy. Adults and their larva will feed on plants leaves and their roots to the point of destroying an entire vegetable garden. Their iridescent backs and clumsy flying skills make them unmistakable to the common eye. Luckily there are some simple ways to get rid of these unwelcome herbivores. In the early morning hours they are sluggish and can easily be picked off plants. Most gardeners purchase the affordable green hourglass shaped traps. These traps have a citronella like scent is irresistable to the beetles. The traps are recommended to be placed at 10 feet from gardens and to be changed frequently for best results.

Vermont is home to 45 species of mosquitoes and, according to the BLSG, while they can transmit pathogens, they also are an important part of our ecosystem. Spiders, birds, bats, and fish all depend on mosquitoes and their larvae for a healthy diet. It is important to consider the effect that killing mosquitoes has on all animals, desired and vital for Vermont’s environment. The mosquito population in August is significantly less than it was in the spring. Those that you do see are most active between dusk and dawn.

Chemical spraying has the best results, but using bug spray with Deet is the second best measure for preventing bites. For pregnant women, families with small children, or folks who are adamantly against the use of Deet, organic bug spray can help. Look for essential oils such as clove, citronella, lavender and lemongrass, which are natural bug deterrents.

Deer flies peak around the middle of July and are often considered to be the bug with the biggest bite. Their incessant head buzzing and painful bites is enough to make some of the toughest woodsmen call it quits. While chemical repellents such as Deet and Permethrin are widely used, there are other effective tricks, too. Coating a blue cup with Tanglefoot or another all natural gum resin and securing it to a hat or earmuff protector can trap all deer flies swirling around your head. You may look silly, but you’ll be fly-free!

Ticks and their ability to transmit Lyme disease make walking in the woods and high grass risky. The Vermont Health Department recommends Permethrin and 30 percent Deet for use May through June. Other measures advised are covering exposed skin, tucking pants into socks (another fashionable style), and checking one’s body after returning inside. All Natural Green Mountain Tick Repellent is a product that can repel ticks without the use of harsh chemicals. It can be used on children and animals and has the added benefit of supporting a Vermont based company.

Detailed instructions for tick removal and commonly asked questions can be found at healthvermont.gov.

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