Saturday, August 25, 2012

On August 24th, 2012, the 66th day of summer, nature left its mark between my thumb and my forefinger, a black fly bite. On the day of the black fly, swat pesky nuisances that would spoil your enjoyment of the next 26 days, the last of summer.


I won't be able to swat all the nuisances. Most nuisances I will endure. It is a nuisance that Mona Lake has a lower lake level than I've seen in five summers on her shore. In the slough, lily pads that floated during my work week now are laying on a flat of mud. The stretch of water that is now mud flat had bloomed with algae and that algae isn't visible on the black mud. It's there, yet not visible to my eye. The blooms clear out after a few days, as if the blooms wash away or a squad of fish gobbles them up. I have watched a heron stalk fish, witnessed the murder of a mallard hen by a mink and studied the skirmishes of mallards on that stretch that has become mud. I assume that the big lake is sloshing, the seiche, and the water will return soon. This is the second day of low water, so I wonder. Maybe the Chicago River diversion has been allowed to draw more water to save shipping on the lower Mississippi? I simply cannot believe that for many reasons. People would scream along Lake Michigan. Could enough water be drawn to make a difference quickly on the lower Mississippi? Ironic how a few springs ago, we had flooding along the upper reaches on the Mississippi.

What could be more ugly than lily pads drying on a flat of black mud? If fish were caught in the draw down, predators have snapped them up and I detect no smell of rotting flesh.

I was stowing my bike in the holds of a bus, and I had lifted the swing out and up door myself. I was shocked by a sharp pain on my left hand, between my thumb and forefinger. I examined my hand and I though I was seeing a green insect the size of a grain of rice biting my hand. I blew it off with a huff of breath and the pain stopped. I knew my eyes had deceived me because aphids are not noted for attacking hands. So I had to be sure of what had bitten my hand. I searched the blacktop and saw nothing. I kept searching because if a brown recluse had nipped my hand, I wanted to know why my hand was swelling and splitting. I finally found not one but two black flies, turkey gnats, clinging to my shirt, waiting for a first or a second chance. I brushed them off my green shirt and got on the bus. I noticed the bite point swell, reminding me of a blister. I felt a bit tingly on my hand, but I decided to not freak out about the bite unless my lower arm started to swell. I am allergic to bee stings, and a bee sting will swell up my entire arm.

The corner of US-31 and Apple Boulevard has no reputation as a wildlife refuge or a swampy forest where black flies prosper. The fly does inject an anticoagulant as the female draws blood, like a mosquito looking for a blood meal to promote egg development. The two flies had caught a ride on the aluminum sides of the bus, maybe hitching a ride when the bus had idled at a stop sign in a swampy area. Enough of these bites can kill a cow or drive a human being into the emergency room. My welt has a red field and a tiny white pimple at the bite point. A deep, subtle inch persists. My left eyelid had ballooned with swelling while sleeping Thursday night, and has since returned to normal. The pollen count must have increased.

I swear I am becoming the Roadkill Audubon. I see birds smashed on the roadway, and I want to take a picture of them to post on a web page. I have taken more pictures than makes me comfortable, mostly for identification purposes. I haven't taken to scooping them up and freezing them for mailing to organizations that count birds that way. I wish I had taken a picture of a Blue Jay sized birds with white zig zags in its flight feathers. It's still out on the left turn lane, of all places a left turn lane, and I'll have my Samsung Nexus phone with me as I leave home. That's near the entrance of my complex, where the access road crosses Cress Creek rushing over small boulders. The smell of a rotting carcass has wafted into my nostrils as I pass over the bridge. I can't see a carcass, and I shudder to think what I might find if I brush aside a few grapevines.

In better news, a second growth of fresh milkweed leaves has arisen from roadside shoulders cut back two or three weeks ago. A second growth of mullein has arisen when a roadway crew had trimmed along south Mona Lake.

Is the Lake Michigan seiche in session?

I am confident that my black fly hadn't carried river blindness.

I believe I am witnessing mullein regrowing, with a floral stalk, from a cut back stem?

Picture Credit:

Adult Black Fly (Simulium yahense) with (Onchocerca volvulus) emerging from the insect's antenna. The parasite is responsible for the disease known as en:River Blindness in Africa. Sample was chemically fixed and critical point dried, then observed using conventional scanning electron microscopy.

Magnified 100X.
(SEM) Plate #04999.
United States Department of Agriculture

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